Microsoft Announces First Real Details About Windows 8

Alex Castle

So, this is the new Start screen for Windows 8 . It looks a lot like Windows Phone Live Tiles. And hey, that looks like an app store.

The whole point of Windows 8, which is just a codename, is to be one OS that'll run on regular computers or on tablets. So Windows 8 will run two kinds of applications: A standard Windows application ("It's Windows. Everything just runs," says Windows chief Steven Sinofsk y) and an almost mobile-like app, written in HTML5 and JavaScript, which Microsoft is calling a "new platform." And of course, there's IE10 underpinning those apps. All apps can be viewed in this tile-based UI, which Josh from TIMN says is, "Very impressive. It looks super fast." You can totally see the Windows Phone influence on the interface, from the tiles to the touch keyboard, which even has a "thumbs" mode. ( Sinofsky tells All Things D , "We were clearly influenced ourselves by phones.") The animations and gestures and multitasking are all pretty damn smooth looking, as you can see in this demo video .

Better still, it requires fewer resources than Windows 7, which is kind of crazy. Which all sounds great. And sort of what I expected . What sounds (and looks) a little dicey is that the awesome, modern tile UI is basically just a skin over Windows. The rest of the "classic Windows desktop" is still there, looking underneath, albeit adjusted to be more touch friendly with "fuzzy hit targeting," so regular Windows applications will work with touch or keyboard/mouse. But the two things together looks like a miscreant experience, even in Microsoft's demo. The idea of running real, full Windows apps on a tablet (or anywhere) isn't a bad one, but it looks pretty gross and weird in practice.

We'll apparently see a lot more in September at Microsoft's Build conference.

Microsoft's official list of new features shown off today:

• Fast launching of apps from a tile-based Start screen, which replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.

• Live tiles with notifications, showing always up-to-date information from your apps.

• Fluid, natural switching between running apps.

• Convenient ability to snap and resize an app to the side of the screen, so you can really multitask using the capabilities of Windows.

• Web-connected and Web-powered apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that have access to the full power of the PC.

• Fully touch-optimized browsing, with all the power of hardware-accelerated Internet Explorer 10

We're following Microsoft demo, live, (so expect this post to be changed and updated with more stuff).

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