Windows 8 Tablet interface shown off, full details uncovered

Today at an AllThingsD event, Microsoft showed off their all new Windows 8 interface for tablet based PC's, based on the metro design language we've seen in the Zune software as well as on Windows Phone 7. The new operating system strives to provide a experience that suits the form factor and is easy to use, unlike previous versions of Windows on tablet computers.

The new tablet UI is entirely tile based, and AllThingsD says that, "At the heart of the new interface is a new start screen that draws heavily on the tile-based interface that Microsoft has used with Windows Phone 7. All of a user’s programs can be viewed as tiles and clicked on with a touch of a finger." The tablet OS will be able to run conventional Windows applications and specialized tablet PC Windows 8 applications that will be written in HTML5 and Javascript, and will run inside of Internet Explorer 10 which is pre-packaged with the OS.

All applications will run inside of the tablet UI, which will have a task bar style bar down the right of the screen at all times. The "start screen" clearly shows a Microsoft store, a feature previously rumored to be coming to Windows 8, which is essentially now confirmed.

Microsoft also said that "after decades of ever-increasing system requirements that characterized Windows releases through Vista, Microsoft is once again building an operating system that demands fewer resources than its predecessor" which is fantastic news for consumers and enterprises hoping to use Windows 8.
 
At the D9 event today, Microsoft said they they also realized how important social networks are to people, and will be keeping this in mind with Windows 8. We assume this means some sort of built in social networking support. The company also confirmed that tiles have replaced the start menu in this form factor. Windows 8 includes multiple types of keyboards -- which are very Windows Phone 7 styled -- including a split keyboard for vertical slates.
 
 
 
It appears that Microsoft allows the normal desktop experience to be shown as well, with the company opening an Excel spreadsheet in the demo and the tablet reverting to the normal Windows shell. In saying this, the immersive UI is only one step away and can share the desktop with the normal Windows shell, too. Engadget noted that "Kara (All Things D) seemed fairly upset that Office still takes you back to what's effectively a Windows 7 interface; the Microsoft team seems to think that Office will be lagging behind when it comes to a refined interface."
 
 
It appears that the tablet UI can run on "normal" PC's too, with a Thinkpad X220 showing off the new UI being on stage.
 
Microsoft confirmed that more would be seen at their developer conference -- "Build" -- in September, and that the company will be releasing developer tools that allow developers to build apps that fit in with the new interface. Steven confirmed the Windows key will be staying in Windows 8, but for tablets and touch screens it will be remapped to return the user to the home screen rather than the traditional start menu.
 
It's worth noting that this will only be available on tablet PC's, and that Windows' normal interface will continue to exist on desktop PC's and other form factors.
 
A press release just showed up on Microsoft's site, confirming Live Tiles as a part of Windows 8 with full notifications (similar to Windows Phone 7 style). The company keeps stressing that Windows 8 is only a codename used internally... perhaps we'll see a new name again this time around? During questions, Steven confirmed that Windows 8's browser has built in silverlight support and is IE10 by default. He also confirmed that one of the tablets was running an Intel Atom processor. Steven also confirmed Microsoft's next generation web services -- Office365 -- will be integrated to Windows 8.
 
The press just asked if Windows 8's tablet UI is "another layer" and Steve says no, it is built right into Windows and is different from anything seen previously for tablet PC's. When asked about OEM's being able to hide the "old house" (the desktop), Steve said that "No, you can't turn "the desktop" off, it's just part of the way that it works. It's always there. The code is there."
 
Microsoft wouldn't pin down a release date when asked, with Steven only saying "right now, we're focused on getting the release done, and the next milestone is the developer conference in September. We're aiming to keep new Windows builds coming every two the three years. I can tell you it won't be this fall." The company also showed off the tablet interface on video, here.

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44 Comments

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This and from what I've heard/read already confirms my belief that Windows 8 is going to take the market by storm. I don't see how Windows 8 will fail unless they really screw up somehow.

It's a great interface. Now the only thing Microsoft is lagging behind in is Apps...Make it like the Apple App Store and this platform is going to take over the market!

The tablet OS will be able to run conventional Windows applications and specialized tablet PC Windows 8 applications that will be written in HTML5 and Javascript

Oh please, tell me we can write tablet apps in C#. I don't care if it's Silverlight, WPF, or some new UI framework, as along as we don't have to use that horrible abomination called Javascript!!

It's really amazing to see how Microsoft keeps Windows evolving.

But the question remains... Though Neowin's post impressed me that the new UI is set defualt only on tablet pcs and desktop pcs (with laptops and netbooks) will get a improved UI similar to what Windows 7 looks, other sources including Microsoft's own newroom state in a way that this touch-optimized UI will be the defualt look of all the PCs and no (or only a few) improvements will be made to the current UI - In this way making it a poor and outdated alternative.

So it is really confusing and I really doubt whether I would like a Windows 8 PC without touch screen. Guess I'm going to wait till the "Build" Conference.

i think when this goes to EVERYBODY it will help people understand the strengths of the metro UI, and get people to look more closely at WP7 and get them more involved in the MS ecosystem. MS WIN

You people are smoking rocks. Metro is the worst thing that has ever happened to Microsoft. If this is the future UI of Windows I'm either going Mac or ubuntu.

Everyone has different tastes. No one is forcing you to like it. But saying that others are smoking rocks just because they like this UI is not very pleasant.

cleverclogs said,
God I hope this runs on my slate - Atom N455, 2GB DDR3.
Question is... WHAT ABOUT BATTERY LIFE????

Battery life will be awesome. They already figured it out when they were building the Windows Phone 7 OS. I have a WP7, and battery life is the best of all phones i had (including iPhone 3GS)

It looks lovely, but a touch version of Office is essential. Even if it's a stripped-down version equivalent to the WP7 one. At least give us a touch OneNote! Other than that, amazing. I love how smooth it is. I love that Microsoft's products finally all have a common design in Metro - Xbox, Windows, Windows Phone. Those 3 screens and a cloud are looking reallllly close now

McDave said,
Wonder if there is going to be 3D support?

Any device can support 3D. It doesn't need to be built into the OS.

There better be a touch friendlier version of a new Office. And they should put Microsoft Bob back on the product line for Mac converts. Call it Microsoft Moron.

saddly in the live blog i get annoyed by that idiot walt and their idiot quesitions like if he was the smarter person in the world....but after that, everything looks nice! more ui changes will come (which people dont seem to understand, its many months from release... so it will be changed and changed).

You mean questions like, what about viruses? Will my computer blow up after I click on a link to get my free lottery money or to watch my daily porn? XD

the Touch UI is gona blow the competition away!!!
but i am not impressed as i want a desktop OS.. and what im getting from all this is that they are gona run this WIN8 with old Win7 desktop UI
and i never like libraries i dont use them i use folders and files from the windows explorer. If they can intergrate the files listing option to the touch UI that would rock. Else i think we will be left with same old Win7 come on Microsoft..

Hopefully the live tiles move around like WP7 does, looks a bit bland ATM. It would also be awesome if it had Xbox Live integrated.

mjedi7 said,
Yuck, i don't like metro at all, ugly interface. :-[

What I love about it is that they give you an option to choose the shell of you liking. TBH I'm not keen on the Metro language either, but this looks JUICY

Kuraj said,

What I love about it is that they give you an option to choose the shell of you liking. TBH I'm not keen on the Metro language either, but this looks JUICY

Well after i seen the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p92QfWOw88I
well still the UI still kinda ugly, but the programs & functionality looks promising for Tablets and Phones, could be nice see that as the Windows Media Center default interface, in a desktop PC & not as the main interface of the OS.

And I agree it's nice to have an option to choose the shell.

~Johnny said,
Liking. A lot

Having a look at it, it seems very much like Windows Media Centre crossed with Windows Phone 7 (though they are part of the same evolutionary design family anyway). It's going to be fun to develop for these tablets

EDIT: Okay, not as fun if it's using HTML 5 & Javascript. I'd much prefer if a proper programming environment like Silverlight was supported in this new touch UI too.

Edited by ~Johnny, Jun 1 2011, 11:19pm :

~Johnny said,
I'd much prefer if a proper programming environment like Silverlight was supported in this new touch UI too.

As do I, but isn't there a DOM-Bridge in Silverlight?

[quote=MFH said,]
As do I, but isn't there a DOM-Bridge in Silverlight?[/quote

I believe - I've never used it but I'm sure I've heard of it Either way we'll still be able to simply just put the Silverlight apps in the HTML pages as normal, but then we'd lose out on any trusted / desktop mode priviledges for Silverlight Desktop apps.

~Johnny said,

EDIT: Okay, not as fun if it's using HTML 5 & Javascript. I'd much prefer if a proper programming environment like Silverlight was supported in this new touch UI too.

If they're serious about limiting the programming model to HTML 5 + Javascript, then it will limit the Windows touch platform to apps. Not applications, but apps.

Were there any synthetic-vision applications for WebOS? How much fun is it to write a barcode recognizer in Javascript?

I don't see what was so hard about porting over the Windows Phone Silverlight-based application model. Other than a serious case of Not-Invented-Here syndrome.

TomJones said,
Were there any synthetic-vision applications for WebOS? How much fun is it to write a barcode recognizer in Javascript?

Wrong question, you should rather ask: "How much fun is it to write in JavaScript?" The answer is: none - I personally hate scripting languages…

MFH said,

Wrong question, you should rather ask: "How much fun is it to write in JavaScript?" The answer is: none - I personally hate scripting languages…
That's too bad. Scripting languages really are quite awesome. They just have a different way of doing things which means that they'll have a bit of a learning curve. But once you get past that, they'll change the way you think about coding.

wixostrix said,
Gorgeous! I will seriously get a tablet when this comes out

+1 .. looks great.. my windows phone wont be so lonely after I get this tablet

Lachlan said,

+1 .. looks great.. my windows phone wont be so lonely after I get this tablet

hahah, totally. I really hope they implement a way to be able to make and receive phone calls and text message on the device from your phone, much like what WebOS is going to be able to do with the phones and the touchpad. That would be epic!