Windows 8 tablet” />Today at the Build conference, Microsoft had the coming-out party for Windows 8, which Steve Ballmer has called its riskiest product ever.There wasn’t any big news — we still don’t know the release date, although late 2012 looks likely based on past cycles.
But Microsoft is doing a lot to please developers, like letting them choose which language they want to build Windows “Metro” style (tablet) apps, and making it easy for them to build apps that sync with the cloud.
They also showed off some new hardware — although none of it is actually shipping yet.
Here’s our coverage of the event. More to come….
12:00 ET. Waiting for the keynote to start.
12:01: Steven Sinofsky took the stage and said he’s “super-excited” — making fun of Microsoft’s proclivity to put “super” in front of everything.
Metrics for Windows 7: approaching 450 million copies sold. Consumer usage is now greater than Windows XP usage.
12:05: The PC market has changed a lot in the last few years. Touch — big deal. “We did touch in Windows 7….I think touch is going to become a huge part of interaction….As soon as you want touch on a PC, you’ll want it on all your PCs.”
Sounds like a big bet — not just touch on small iPad-like tablets.
12:07: “Everything that runs on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8.” They didn’t abandon Windows 7 — all that work is an integral part of Windows 8.
But they’re also reimagining Windows from chipset to experience.
Windows’ job is to help you build apps for many kinds of hardware.
All the demos shown today are equally at home on ARM or on x86. Interesting.
Four big demonstrations:
1. Windows 8 experience.
2. How to build “Metro-style” touch-centric applications.
3. Hardware platform that it all runs on. Range of form factors and peripherals.
4. How that all connects up to cloud-based services with Windows Live. So they’re really pushing the services this time as well.
12:11. They did NOT make Windows bigger or slower and lose sight of fundamentals. He’s demonstrating a netbook — a cheap Lenovo notebook with 1GB memory, Atom processor, it’s three years old. He’s going to show it running Windows 8 well. According to the Windows Task Manager, it uses less memory than Windows 7.
12:14: Windows chief program manager Julie Larson-Green is going to demo the UI now. Start screen has a bunch of icons, personalised. We’ve seen this pretty extensively.
It’s not just a launcher for programs. It’s the place for all your stuff, giving you access to things you really care about.
12:20: Now they’re demonstrating some Metro-style apps — a word game, a news reader. Application shares space with system settings.
Switching between apps — swipe out from left side of screen. Can dock stuff to the right and left, swipe to switch.
The browser is “completely chromeless.” That’s “chrome” as in buttons and toolbars. Sinofsky: “I don’t think anything is better than a completely chrome-free browsing experience.” (Poking fun at Google Chrome…which ironically enough has very little chrome on it either.)
12:26: Set of icons on the right side of the screen called “charms.” They seem to be a way to share information between apps — there’s more coming later. “Lets applications power the system.”
Demonstrating a social networking app called Friend Feed — it’s just a test demo app, not necessarily a real thing.
12:32: Aha, the first actual Windows 8 tablet. It’s an ARM-based machine. Info that she added to the cloud from the other computer shows up here. (A pic in this case).
Here it is:
12:34. Now he’s moving on to how to write apps for Windows 8.
Big deal — Windows 8 will support both touch and keyboard and mouse, not a second-class citizen.
Apps aren’t siloed. On “other platforms” (iOS) they “barely know” about each other. With Windows 8, they want to make sure apps can share information with each other easily, and across devices, across PC architectures.
With Metro, you can pick language you want to use to build Metro-style apps.
Not layers on top of Windows — built into kernel.
This is too complicated to explain in the context of a live blog, but it’s basically Microsoft trying make all its developers happy.
Here’s a diagram Microsoft is using to explain its developer philosophy for Windows 8:
12:39: Bringing on Antoine LeBlond, who is the exec who “runs the Windows App Store.”
OK, so that’s official — there will be an app store.
He’s going to demonstrate how to build an app. On stage. Exciting for developers. Not for anybody else.
Sample app — he just wrote a couple lines of code to pull pictures from Facebook. That was super easy because another app is already accessing Facebook, and this app just called that app. So the developer didn’t have to know the Facebook APIs, all he had to do was pull the info from the other app.
This seems to be a major theme — apps sharing information with each other, not all existing in isolation.
12:47: New version of Microsoft’s developer tool for visual layout, Expression Blend, will let developers edit HTML — not just XAML (Microsoft’s own layout language).
12:53. The store lets developers set options like how much to charge, whether to offer a free trial, and how long.
There WILL be a certification process — like Apple’s App Store. Promise to make apps safe, high-quality. “These processes tend to be a little bit infamous at this point…bureaucratic black holes.”
12:55: Here’s what the App Store will look like. It’ll have a Spotlight area where Microsoft will highlight its favourites, plus sections like Entertainment, Games, and so on.
Here’s what his test app looks like in the store:
So, in about 15 minutes he was able to create a simple photo editing app and post it to the store.
Important note: the store isn’t JUST going to include Metro-style (tablet) apps. It will include old-fashioned Windows (Win32) apps as well.
1:05: You don’t have to worry about targeting a particular type of processor — write to the platform and it’ll just work on ARM and Intel.
So what’s the opportunity? These applications will run on all Windows 8 PCs. Tablets, desktops, laptops, big screens, small screens. Every Windows 8 PC — that can be 400 million people when this product launches.
1:07: Moving on to hardware.
Now Michael Angiulo, who handles Windows 8 “ecosystem” relations, is on stage. He’s going to show a bunch of systems running Windows 8.
Booted so fast he couldn’t even count — it started faster than the monitor.
Startups — no more BIOS screens flashing. No weird characters going by. It goes straight to the startup screen.
Now he’s booting from an infected flash drive — it’s got a “really nasty virus on it.” Boot from USB — boom got an “invalid signature” error. Protected.
1:13: “Our partnership with Intel is great,” showing off some of the work they’ve done to make PCs boot faster and use less power as well. (Interesting: Google’s Andy Rubin just showed up at Intel’s software conference to announce that Android will run on Intel chips.)
Here’s some PCs running Windows 8:
1:16: A bunch of the displays on stage have touch. Widescreen.
Some features of Metro won’t work on lower resolution screens — for instance, need higher resolution to get the “snap” side-by-side app feature.
1:21: Now using near-field communication — tap to share.
So if you’ve got an NFC chip in a PC and in a business card (for instance), just tap the card to the PC and the info is transferred.
All of these features — touch, NFC — are built in for developers.
1:28. Lots of hardware porn. Here’s an early Intel Ultrabook (Mac Air-like PC) running Windows 8:
1:30: As expected, Microsoft is giving away 5,000 Windows 8 developer tablets from Samsung. Comes with some pretty good hardware specs, all the 3D sensors, NFC sensor, USB port — this is not some cheap-o PC. Plus free 3G access from Verizon. Nice.
1:33: Another demo for developer geeks — Sinofsky is going to show Windows 8 running on a professional workstation, as a developer would use.
Windows Update: will warn you as you log on “your PC will restart in 2 days to install updates.” No pop-ups, toasts, countdowns.
We’re still here, but this is all highly geeky — he remoted into a separate machine running Windows 8 and controlled it with a touch screen monitor, he’s showing Hyper-V (virtualization) in the Windows client (like it was in Windows 7), showed how to use ink with Windows, and so on.
How much time will he spend in the Control Panel? A long time, apparently.
1:57: Finally, he’s talking about Windows Live — the company’s cloud services. This is part four.
Start screen contains live tiles — email message, calendar, photos you’ve shared or connected to device. Click and there you are with a Metro-style mail app. It looks like Windows Phone 7:
It connects to all your email accounts — Hotmail, Gmail, your corporate Exchange account.
There’s also a People app — just like Phone — that aggregates all your contacts from Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks.
Photos app — again, aggregates your local photo library, Windows Live SkyDrive, Facebook, Flickr. Check it out:
2:04: Windows Live SkyDrive — cloud-based storage for consumers — will be available to Windows 8 developers.
You can use your email client to post photos directly to SkyDrive so they’re available from any PC with an Internet connection. This has been available on Hotmail for a while now, but now it’s going to be in the email client and will work with OTHER email systems, including Exchange server.
Long story short, app developers can just “put stuff in that storage and know that users can access it.”
2:08. Now switching over to Windows Phone. (He’s running 7.5 or Mango on the phone.) Showing how the calendar appointments he made on his PC are now available on the phone; same thing with email messages, photo albums. Everything is just synced automatically across devices.
These Windows Live apps aren’t being released today — this is just a first look. But they will all be part of Windows 8, bundled for free.
So how did they build all those Windows Live apps? 17 teams, 2 to 3 devs per team, 10 weeks FROM SCRATCH?
With college interns. They just brought 20 of them out on stage.
2:17: Release plans: Windows 8 Developer Preview. It’s a pre-release product. Won’t be perfect. But it’s available today. This has the new UI, whereas the Win 7 preview didn’t even have any of its (relatively minor) U changes.
Then beta, release candidate, release to manufacturing, and general availability.
Given that Windows 7 took about a year from preview all the way to general availability, we’ll expect to see Windows 8 around the end of 2012, or perhaps in early 2013.
Which means it won’t affect Microsoft’s earnings this fiscal year. (Microsoft has its Financial Analyst Meeting tomorrow, so we might hear more details then.)
That’s a wrap. We’ll be following up with more screenshots and pulling out some of the news as separate stories.
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