Microsoft sheds light on Windows 8

Microsoft has come clean on Windows 8, Silverlight and Metro, and has revealed plans for the future of Windows development, at its Build developer show in California
Written by Simon Bisson, Contributor

Microsoft finally revealed details of its next-generation Windows 8 operating system on Tuesday at its Build event in Anaheim, California.

Windows 8

Microsoft has revealed further details of Windows 8, which will feature a new user interface. Photo credit: Microsoft

Windows 8 is, according to Windows president Steven Sinofsky, "a bold re-imagination of what Windows could be".

Designed to run on both the current and the next generation of PC hardware, Windows 8 introduced a new touch-first user interface and a new programming model for what it calls immersive full-screen applications using the Metro design language introduced with Windows Phone 7.

"Mobility means devices you use while carrying, not just devices you carry then use. We're rethinking the opportunities to make it better," Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president of Windows Experience, told journalists at a pre-briefing.

As well as its new user interface, Windows 8 will include deep cloud integration with Microsoft's Live services platform along with new security features such as a trusted boot mode. Other features revealed at Build include Windows To Go, a portable version of Windows 8 that boots from a flash drive as an alternative to VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) for small and medium businesses.

Microsoft will be releasing a developer preview of Windows 8 at Build. Sinofsky noted, "This is not a product launch, just the beginning of Windows 8. It's an opportunity for third parties." The preview is not feature complete; it is pre-beta code intended to give developers a platform on which to test both Metro and traditional Windows applications.

Development tools

Microsoft also ended months of speculation about the future of Windows development, revealing that a new version of Silverlight would be one of two technologies used to build Metro-style applications for Windows 8, alongside the previously announced HTML 5/JavaScript combination. A new set of programming interfaces, WinRT, will let developers use familiar tools and technologies to work with the new operating system.

Mobility means devices you use while carrying, not just devices you carry then use. We're rethinking the opportunities to make it better.
– Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft

Developers at Build will get access to new versions of Microsoft's Visual Studio development tool and its Expression Blend design tool. Sinofsky told journalists that "Metro-style applications are for all machines that run Windows 8. The platform takes care of the differences".

Windows 8 Metro applications will be available through an online store, itself a Metro application. Tools for publishing to the store will be built into the next release of Visual Studio, and Microsoft will be releasing copies of its test tools to help speed up the application certification process. Noting that the store would learn lessons from the Windows Phone Marketplace, Sinofsky suggested that Microsoft would "also learn from competitors, to do a better job".

Microsoft is expected to launch Windows 8 during the second half of 2012, with versions for x86 and ARM platforms.

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