Ahead of September’s BUILD conference, Microsoft is taking steps to position its upcoming Windows 8 as a platform meant equally for tablets and traditional PCs.
Even before it began offering sanctioned glimpses of Windows 8 earlier this summer, Microsoft touted the operating system’s interoperability with tablets. During this past January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Windows and Windows Live division president Steven Sinofsky suggested that Windows 8 would support system-on-a-chip (SOC) architecture, in particular ARM-based systems from partners such as Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments-something that would give the platform the ability to work on tablets and other mobile form factors.
Now, Microsoft’s tasked itself with assuring audiences that Windows 8 will prove adept at serving the needs of both tablet and traditional PC users.
“Having both of [the] user interfaces together harmoniously is an important part of Windows 8,” Sinofsky wrote in an Aug. 31 posting on the Building Windows 8 blog. “Our goal was a no compromise design.”
To accomplish that, Microsoft’s Windows teams apparently focused on an “elegant” and “nuanced” approach to OS design, one in which the tablet-centric interface coexists with the desktop one, complete with the ability to shift between the two.
“If you don’t want to do any of those -PC’ things, then you don’t have to and you’re not paying for them in memory, battery life or hardware requirements,” Sinofsky wrote. “If you do want or need this functionality, then you can switch to it with ease and fluidity because Windows is right there. Essentially, you can think of the Windows desktop as just another app.”
Sinofsky’s posting included no images of the tablet-ready “Metro” interface and the supposedly “improved Windows desktop.” Microsoft has yet to fill in precise details about how the transition between the two environments will work, or how thousands of applications built for previous Windows editions will work in this radically revamped, suddenly mobile-friendly environment.
Over the past few weeks, the Building Windows 8 blog has focused on everything from support for USB 3.0 to Windows Explorer revisions to the reasoning behind the user interface. Current rumor also suggests Microsoft could hang out quad-core tablets loaded with a test version of Windows 8 to BUILD conference attendees.
Windows 8 is widely expected to launch sometime in 2012. As the Windows franchise continues to draw substantial revenues for Microsoft, the company will almost certainly need Windows 8 to prove a commercial hit on the scale of Windows 7, which has sold hundreds of millions of licenses since its October 2009 release.