SPECIAL REPORT: Build conference developer preview

Microsoft previews ‘reimagined’ Windows 8

Microsoft showcased a detailed preview of Windows 8 at the firm’s Build developer conference in which Windows chief Steven Sinofsky outlined the "reimagined Windows".

Sinofsky started out by hailing the success of Windows 7, revealing that the software giant had sold over 450 million copies of the OS and that as of last week more consumers use Windows 7 than Windows XP for the first time.

Assuring developers that Microsoft "very focused on the fundamentals" of Windows 8, Sinofsky said that the new Windows would not bloat and slow down the operating system by adding new features.

By way of demonstration Sinofsky shows Windows 8 running on a first generation Lenovo netbook and compared the resource footprint of Windows 7 SP1, 404MB used with 32 processes, with that of Windows 8; 281MB used and 29 processes.

As expected, Microsoft showed off what they described as the "Touch-First" user interfaced based on the Metro-style interface from Windows Phone. The new Windows 8 desktop was demonstrated as a number of screens of application tiles, each of them providing their own graphics and information such as social status updates and emails.

Microsoft stressed that Windows 8 was suitable for a wider array of hardware than any previous Windows operating system, from 10-inch tablets and laptops to large-screen HD screens. The 10-inch size is perhaps a revealing statement which indicates the point that Microsoft has decided Windows 8 should be powering a device instead of the smartphone OS Windows Phone.

In one particularly powerful demonstration, the Sinofsky showed Windows 8 running on a tablet computer, demonstrating syncing of data and configuration changes from one Windows 8 PC to the tablet, before revealing that the tablet was an ARM-powered device.

The assembled developers, possibly realising that they had just seen the first real challenger to the iPad, broke into applause. Capitalising on the inevitable comparison with Apple’s iOS, Sinofsky said that Windows 8 applications were not "in silos" and that applications could better communicate with other applications and the cloud through a "rich" set of APIs.

Microsoft then moved into a demonstration of the new development tools for Windows 8, something the assembled crowd at Build were obviously keen to see. Windows 8 allows developers to create applications based on web-based technologies and bundled as a new form of ‘app pack’ rather than the standard executable.

Microsoft is shortly to make a pre-release version of Windows 8 available for developers to download. "This is a pre-release product," Sinofsky reminded the Build audience. "You saw some little snafus today. There are going to be more of them."

Sinofsky talked about a road map for WIndows 8 release but refused to date the arrival of a beta version, let alone RTM and release. "We’re going to be driven by the quality, not by a date," he said.

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