Microsoft plans on offering additional insight into Windows 8 at its BUILD conference, scheduled to kick off Sept. 13 in Anaheim, Calif.
As part of that developer-centric “deep dive” into the operating system, Microsoft executives will focus on Windows 8’s capability to work on a wide variety of form factors, from desktops to tablets. The company intends Windows 8 to work equally well (“no compromises” is the official buzz-term batted around with increasing frequency by Microsoft) with touch and the traditional keyboard-and-mouse combo. That offers a challenge for the Windows development team, as it needs to design a platform capable of offering a lightweight, Web-centric experience alongside one that will appeal to power users. It’s sort of like walking a tightrope in a hurricane, while the tightrope is on fire.
At the very least, BUILD will give attendees the chance to see how that “no compromises” pledge works in reality, or at least the realty of an early Windows 8 build. The operating system is reportedly slated for a 2012 release, although Microsoft remains squirrely about a more exacting timeframe.
So far, early glimpses of Windows 8 have largely come courtesy of the official Building Windows 8 blog, where featured features have included USB 3.0 support, fast boot times and the ability to run multiple virtualized operating systems on the same physical machine.
Microsoft is also using that blog to defend some early decisions concerning Windows 8’s user interface, including the “ribbon” mechanism undergirding the updated Windows Explorer. The ribbon offers tabs and icons in a horizontal or vertical panel.
“We chose the ribbon mechanism, and to those that find that a flawed choice, there isn’t much we can do other than disagree,” Windows and Windows Live president Steven Sinofsky wrote in a Sept. 2 posting on the blog. “We were certain, and this proved out, that the dislike of the ribbon is most intense in the audience of this blog.”
He also defended the choice of the “Metro” style for Windows 8’s overall look as an opportunity to embrace the new. “We’ve seen a clear turn where Aero is the past and Metro is the future,” he added. “And with that, a strong desire for the existing Windows experience to take on a new look or a Metro redesign.” The “Aero” aesthetic informed the look of both Windows Vista and Windows 7, and emphasized design elements such as translucent panels.
Windows 8 faces a number of challenges. For starters, Windows 7 proved a massive hit, selling hundreds of millions of licenses since its October 2009 debut. Convincing businesses and consumers to upgrade so soon could prove a significant marketing challenge, especially when it comes to traditional desktops and laptops. Second, Windows 8 represents Microsoft’s first significant foray into the consumer tablet market-where Apple’s iPad, and a growing number of Android devices-are deeply entrenched.
Within both those contexts, Microsoft will certainly do its best to sell Windows 8 at BUILD. Current rumor suggests the company could give attendees quad-core tablets loaded with an early build of Windows 8, meaning we could see hands-on reviews in the near future.