Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

Summary: The iPad may be "magical," but future Winpads will be "immersive." Understanding what Microsoft means when it invokes the "I" word is going to become increasingly important to Windows developers (and to a lesser extent, users), in the not-too-distant future.

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The iPad may be "magical," but future Winpads will be "immersive."

Understanding what Microsoft means when it invokes the "I" word is going to become increasingly important to Windows developers (and to a lesser extent, users), in the not-too-distant future.

There have been some recent leaks that indicate Windows 8 may include a Ribbonized Windows Explorer or a possible Metro-inspired Windows 8 lock screen. However, relatively little is still known about the Windows 8 interface at this point in the development schedule.

In spite of any official Windows 8 word, it has been rumored for a while now that Microsoft will be offering two different interfaces with Windows 8. One, allegedly, will be a tiled interface (similar to the tiled Metro/Windows Phone UI). This interface is believed to be MoSH (Modern Shell). Supposedly, this will be the primary (if not sole) interface for Windows 8 tablets and slates. The second interface will be more of a classic Windows Shell and will be the UI for Windows 8 desktops and non-touch-centric Windows PCs.

(Along with a number of other bloggers, pundits and users, I have wondered why Microsoft didn't simply use its Windows Phone OS and Metro tiled UI -- rather than Windows 7 and 8 -- as its tablet/slate OS. The answer, it seems, is company officials are attempting to provide the same Windows Phone "look and feel," keeping Windows, rather than a different operating system, the focal point.)

"Immersive" is the way that Microsoft is describing the Windows 8 app experience on tablets and slates running the MoSH interface, from what I've been told. Inside the company, some Softies use "immersive" and "modern" or "modern client" apps as synonyms. Once a user installs an immersive application, a tile for it will appear on the user's Windows 8 dashboard.

An immersive app is one where the navigational elements of the operating system take a back seat to the application itself. Think about the difference between the New York Times iPad app and the New York Times Web site on the iPad. The first of these is an example of an immersive app, while the second is simply a Web experience. With an immersive app, all the UI controls for a particular app look and feel like native shell inside the app. In other words, a user is "immersed" in the app that s/he is running at any given time.

Immersive apps, from a developer standpoint, are those which will conform to the new Windows App Model that will be built into Windows 8. Immersive apps will adhere to Windows 8's conventions around registration, package composition and software state. These kinds of apps will run in the Windows 8 "LowBox," which is the new Windows 8 security sandbox, I've heard.

With Windows 8, Microsoft developers are thinking about different types of apps and experiences as being in different buckets, I'm hearing from my contacts. Web apps (I'm assuming HTML5-compatible ones) are considered "Bucket 3" apps. Immersive apps are "Bucket 4." Legacy or "classic" managed and native apps are considered "Bucket 5." What are in buckets 1 and 2? So far, I don't know. Anyone?

The "immersive" concept is connected to the "Jupiter" application model that is being developed alongside Windows 8. As a few bloggers with access to information about internal Microsoft Windows 8 builds have noted recently, the Milestone 2/3 builds of Windows 8 include references to "immersive" inside the operating system itself.

Jupiter -- a new UI library for Windows 8 -- is believed to be what will enable "immersive" applications to be deployed as AppX packages (.appx). Visual Studio 2012 supposedly will support the creation of thesee kinds of applications, which can be written in C#, Visual Basic and C++. Jupiter-based immersive apps will be delivered via the Windows 8 App Store, according to the grand Microsoft plan, my contacts have said.

Immersive apps aren't about Web vs. Windows. The high-level idea is they'll be a blend of Web and Windows.

Update: Rafael Rivera of WithinWindows has more on what "immersive" means from the Win 8 UI standpoint in an April 4 on his blog.

Topics: Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Is this the end of Windows Phone 7 ?

    The desktop Windows 8 OS is being scaled down to run on both tablets and phones.<br><br>Windows Phone 7 is the end of the line. For Microsoft's phones, this is another platform reset.<br><br>This would explain why Windows Phone 7 is being updated so slowly, with few features being added. Microsoft is putting all its efforts behind creating a "unified" Windows 8 platform that runs on 3 screens.<br><br>Trouble is, whenever Microsoft introduces a new OS, it is full of teething problems, bugs and missing features (eg Vista, WP7).
    Vbitrate
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

      @zndac
      Are you really as stupid as you always sound. We understand that you hate microsoft , and as usual you are here spouting off about things you know nothing about as if it is fact. Good lord man get a life
      scruff40
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

        @scruff40 : man, calm down... you're about to take the tiles off your Windows Phone and throw them against poor @zndac...

        He might be a Microsoft basher... but in case you read wrong... that's precisely what Mary Jo is suggesting.

        Pragmatically speaking, it makes much sense for MS to choose an interim path called Windows Phone 7. That is, take the Zune experience, push the envelope and start getting people excited about a new platform type.

        But, let's face it, Windows Embedded Compact 6 R3 is a dead end. Mary Jo tries to hide the move, stating that they don't want to maintain two platforms. Nonsense, Win32 and Visual Basic 6.0 are not gonna coexist cleanly with the new UI. What Microsoft needs from Windows 7 is drivers, tons of drivers. Drivers that let you print, that let you connect to wireless, to DVD, to Blue Ray, etc.

        Windows Phone 7 tablets were doomed by the narrow BLS in WEC6R3 and WEC7.

        So calm down, this is not a reset, but it's neither a continuation of the WP7 product line.
        cosuna
      • Message has been deleted.

        i8thecat
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

        Immersive experience ... like being immersed in a cauldron of boiling blue colored oil ... I can't wait! And next will be the expletentiary Win 9. Does anyone have a dictionary at MS or do they make this stuff up on the fly?
        john_gillespie
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

        Welcome to the "Immersive" interface nobody will care about in 2020 when MS plans to release it. Fire Ballmer now!
        nomorebs
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

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    • Sounds ambitious...

      @zndac

      As Ballmer pointed out, it's the biggest risk Microsoft has ever taken. But with the biggest risks come the biggest reward (assuming they can pull it off). For the first time in a while, I think people are interested in what Microsoft is up to. I know I am.
      empirestatebuddy
      • Sure is a risk

        MS is finally trying to innovate on it's desktops, rather than copy the leader.

        Finally we get to see what they're capable of:-)
        Richard Flude
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

        @empirestatebuddy

        I'm pretty sure some people have been interested in Kinect.
        cool8man
      • Message has been deleted.

        timiteh
      • Oh, they say that about everything

        @empirestatebuddy ... if I had a nickel for every minor technology Microsoft said it was 'betting the company' on. Hype.
        HollywoodDog
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

        @timiteh Maybe Apple is a copycat, but they certainly do a good job of turning that "copied" work into something people want to purchase. (A concept that evidently really frosts you.)
        knot44
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

        @ timiteh<br>Please make a list of items that you claim Apple copied.<br>This is not to imply that they have not, but I suspect your list will be more full of internet fiction than fact.<br>So come on, please, let's see that list.<br>(Hint: Please, please PLEASE include the words "XEROX P.A.R.C." in there, so I can laugh at you.)
        DeusXMachina
      • Almost Everything, Not That It Matters

        @DeusXMachina
        Almost everything that Apple has done is a copy of technology developed elsewhere, just like every other developer of computer software and hardware. Only a very small percentage of any successful company's or developer's work is likely to be original.

        It doesn't really matter how Apple obtained the ideas for a graphical user interface that SRI and Xerox developed before them, they still were aware of those ideas, and still did copy them. Of course, they weren't the only ones that did so. The Mac came out in 1984, the W Window System (X Window was based on this) in 1983, the Amiga with Workbench in 1985, Windows 1.0 in 1985, GEOS in 1986. Clearly these systems were all based more on what came before them than on each other. None were particularly original compared to the basic ideas developed by SRI and, later, Xerox.

        Of course, there is the iPod. I mean, everybody knows that the iPod was not the first portable MP3 player. There were two key things about the iPod that made it more desirable than competing players. One was that it got an acceptable ratio of size to storage ability. For the most part other players were either too big or held too little music (this was partly about when it was released).

        The other key thing that was good about the iPod was its control scheme/user interface. That may be one of Apple's more original ideas. Usually it's things like this that have made Apple products successful: a small but key element of product design - not necessarily original in itself, but put together in a way not quite done before.
        CFWhitman
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

        @CFWhitman<br>"Almost everything that Apple has done is a copy of technology developed elsewhere, just like every other developer of computer software and hardware. Only a very small percentage of any successful company's or developer's work is likely to be original."<br><br>It is all well and good to make blanket generic statements, but I believe I was asking about specifics.<br><br>"It doesn't really matter how Apple obtained the ideas for a graphical user interface that SRI and Xerox developed before them, they still were aware of those ideas, and still did copy them. Of course, they weren't the only ones that did so. The Mac came out in 1984, the W Window System (X Window was based on this) in 1983, the Amiga with Workbench in 1985, Windows 1.0 in 1985, GEOS in 1986. Clearly these systems were all based more on what came before them than on each other. None were particularly original compared to the basic ideas developed by SRI and, later, Xerox."<br><br>What you conveniently neglect in your little faux history is that only one of the companies who developed the systems you mentioned were both invited by PARC to see the facilities, but also PAID for the privilege. Sam Tramiel didn't. Bill Gates certainly didn't. More importantly, Apple HIRED the key engineers to continue THEIR work at Apple. With XEROX's complicity. SO, are you suggesting that these engineers were copying themselves?<br><br>"The other key thing that was good about the iPod was its control scheme/user interface. That may be one of Apple's more original ideas. Usually it's things like this that have made Apple products successful: a small but key element of product design - not necessarily original in itself, but put together in a way not quite done before."<br><br>And?
        DeusXMachina
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

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    • RE: Microsoft's Windows 8 and the 'I' word (Immersive)

      @zndac

      They will still need WP7 for a while. It won't be long before a stripped down Windows can run handily enough on ipadish hardware with decent battery life, but we are still a ways off from the time that it is practical for a phone.

      I would actually call the pace of WP7 pretty frantic if you look at how far it has come from scratch vs how long the competition took. Updates getting to users once available on the other hand, yeah slow.

      Also on the plus side, development for WP7 should be trivially easy to port over to W8 so hardly any developer investment isn't wasted in the transition.
      SlithyTove