Microsoft demos Windows 8's new interface


— 12:33 AM on June 2, 2011

Late yesterday, Microsoft lifted the veil off Windows 8, previewing a new user interface designed to bridge the gap between conventional PCs and touch-enabled devices like tablets. What does it look like? A whole lot like Windows Phone 7, as it turns out. The familiar live tiles are there, as is the Metro design language and touch-optimized interface. Behold:

The new start screen is where everything goes down. All apps are represented by tiles with dynamically updated content. Microsoft clearly aims to make its new OS touch-friendly, with large buttons having become the norm and apps taking up the whole screen. However, the company says you can use the tile interface with a keyboard and mouse, and Windows 8 also lets you load up the familiar, Windows 7-style desktop and Explorer file manager, so legacy applications will still be usable side-by-side with new ones.

Interestingly, the video also reveals that developers will be able to code up Windows 8 apps using only HTML5 and JavaScript. That's going to blur distinction between local software and web apps for sure.

Microsoft disclosed further details about Windows 8 during its Computex preview event. You can check out Engadget's live coverage here. Microsoft demonstrated a tablet and a "skinny laptop" based on Nvidia's Kal-El chip, and it talked about an "always on, always connected" mode that will allow ARM-powered Windows 8 tablets to wake up from sleep instantly.

In a way, Windows 8's new UI reminds me of the Windows Media Center overlay—essentially a specialized GUI layered atop the regular Windows desktop. It looks like Windows 8 will put the touch-friendly UI front and center, though. That certainly bodes well for tablets and touch-capable laptops, but I'm curious about the implications for us desktop users. Will windowed multitasking be slowly phased out?

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