Microsoft showed off a first public glimpse of the planned user interface for its Windows 8 operating system at the AllThingsD conference on June 1. Here's what it looks like:
There were some surprises in Windows President Steven Sinofsky's demo tonight. And there were some confirmations of previously leaked information -- including the Windows 8 codename (which Sinofsky finally used, rather than "Windows Next.")
Microsoft showed a demo of what's been called the "immersive UI." It looks like the Windows Phone UI and uses the live tile metaphor to display applications and make the underlying Windows operating system touch-centric. But this UI isn't going to be the interface only on tablets (from what I could tell from the live blogs I was reading from the event, which wasn't streamed or broadcast). Instead, this immersive UI is the new start screen for all versions of Windows 8: The tablet versions, the laptop/notebook/netbook versions and the desktop PC versions. Users will be able to switch between this UI and a more conventional Windows Aero type interface, it seems.
Sinofsky didn't differentiate in his demo tonight any differences between applications that will be supported on Intel x86 or ARM versions of Windows 8 PCs and tablets. He did reiterate that Microsoft doesn't plan to add any kind of compatibility layer to enable legacy Windows apps to run on ARM-based PCs and tablets, however. He also didn't volunteer information on any of the other new features beyond the UI that will be part of Windows 8.
Sinofsky also didn't share any update on the delivery target for Windows 8. CEO Steve Ballmer indicated last week that Microsoft was planning to release the next version of Windows in 2012. Nor did anyone ask whether Microsoft plans to deliver Windows 8 ARM-based tablets before (or after) x86-based Windows 8 PCs. (I am assuming he wouldn't have answered if anyone did.)
Microsoft also opened up registration for its renamed Professional Developers Conference, now known as Build, as of June 1. The Build conference, slated for September 13 to 16 in Anaheim, Calif., will be focused primarily (though not exclusively) around Windows 8.