One could easily assume Microsoft designed Windows 8 in response to the iPad. After all, tablets were seen as an iffy proposition before the iPad really took off, and back then, Microsoft was still pushing Windows 7 on touch-enabled PCs.
But you'd be wrong. In an interview with MIT Technology Review, newly minted Windows chief Julie Larsson-Green shed some light on the thinking behind Windows 8's new, touch-centric interface. When asked if Windows 8's revamped interface was a response to the success of iOS and Android devices, she responded with the following:
We started planning Windows 8 in June of 2009, before we shipped Windows 7, and the iPad was only a rumor at that point. I only saw the iPad after we had this design ready to go. We were excited. A lot of things they were doing about mobile and touch were similar to what we’d been thinking. We [also] had differences. We wanted not just static icons on the desktop but Live Tiles to be a dashboard for your life; we wanted you to be able to do things in context and share across apps; we believed that multitasking is important and that people can do two things at one time.
Color me surprised.
Well, maybe not that surprised. Windows Phone 7 premiered the whole Modern UI thing in November 2010, which means Microsoft likely began development on it long before June 2009. Bridging phone and PC operating systems with the next Windows release probably seemed like a logical next step to the Windows team—even without the iPad to goad them on.
In the interview, Larson-Green also suggested that her tenure as Windows chief may not see radical departures from the previous strategy. She and Steven Sinofsky "think a lot the same," according to Larson-Green, and "not a whole lot" is going to change now that she's in charge. Steven Sinofsky stepped down as President the Windows and Windows Live last month.