At the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at MWC, Microsoft execs demonstrated a UI likened to a "super-fancy cloud-connected modern clipboard."
BARCELONA, Spain Microsoft
launched the Windows 8 consumer previewthe next milestone of the Windows
operating system, to the press at Mobile World Congress in a two-hour
presentation in which Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows division,
joined by other Microsoft executives, provided demonstrations of the touch
interface and how the operating system functioned on a number of devices,
including tablets, desktop PCs and notebooks, as well as next-generation
The emphasis was on the
fast and fluid nature of the interface, which uses the four corners of a
notebooks screen to go from an application back to the "start"
screen (bottom left) zoom (bottom right) switch between multiple applications
(top left) or sharing functions (top right). With a mouse, you get a precise
pointing device, but it is not great for gestures, explained vice president of
Windows Web services Antoine Leblond. Corners make it really easy to move
around the UI.
The "start" screen
features applications as colorful tiles that users can rearrange, based on
personal preferences, as well as zoom in or out with quick gestures. Users can
switch between applications by flicking a finger to slide through them, or
close an application by dragging it down off the screen. The UI allows
applications to be placed side-by-side, and power management features in
Windows 8 automatically park the app when it isnt in use. Sinofsky likened
the UI to a super-fancy cloud-connected modern clipboard with a power profile
more like a phone than a traditional PC.
The preview also marks the
beta opening of the Windows Store, which is filled with a variety of new Metro-style
apps from both third-party developers and Microsoft. During the preview, these
apps are available to try at no cost to users, Sinofsky said. The Windows Store
will also offer personalized recommendations, and Windows 8 gives users the
ability to take their apps and settings with them across multiple PCs.
An optional additional
sign-on with a Microsoft account provides access to a host of cloud-based
features, including the ability to roam all settings, use cloud storage,
communicate with email, calendar and contacts, and connect to a broad range of
services. The user connection to the cloud works across a Windows-based PCs and
Windows 7 phones. Internet Explorer Platform Preview 5, designed specifically
for Windows 8 devices, is hardware-accelerated to enable Web performance.
At the event, Microsoft also
showcased Windows 8 running on a wide range of new x86- and ARM-based reference
hardware. This hardware will be available to select developers for trial and
testing, Sinofsky said.
Also on display was an AMD
dual-core-processor-based PC with an 82-in. touch-screen made with optically
bonded Corning Gorilla Glass, which Sinofsky said had a stick-to-your-finger
quality, which feels like there is no gap between a users finger and the
pixels it is touching.
The preview is available
worldwide for download in English, French, German, Japanese and simplified
Chinese languages. Sinofsky said that during the period the preview launched,
users from more than 70 countries had already downloaded it. The Developer
Preview received more than 3 million downloads.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.