We’re here in Anaheim, California at Microsoft’s BUILD conference. As has become tradition (or at least as much as possible), Microsoft has been holding major developer conferences for their new OSes roughly a year ahead of launch. In 2008 developers and the press got their first in-depth look at Windows 7 at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC), and here in 2011 BUILD is doing much the same for Windows 8.

As it stands Windows 8 is still in its infancy. The build in Microsoft’s demos is 1802, a pre-beta and not feature complete version of the OS. Microsoft needs to balance the need to show off Windows 8 to developers with a need to keep it under wraps until it’s done as to not spook end-users. The result of that is the situation at BUILD, where Microsoft is focusing on finished features while unfinished features are either not in the OS or are going unmentioned. For comparison, at PDC 2008 the Windows 7 interface was not done yet, and Microsoft was using the Windows Vista interface in its place.

Today the show kicks off in earnest with a keynote that begins at the same time as this article went live, followed by some mega-sessions for developers covering the biggest aspects of Windows 8. Yesterday was a pre-show day for press, with Microsoft spending most of the day running the press through a similar series of presentations, focused more on the end-user than developers.

At the conclusion of the press sessions we managed to get some hands on time with a tablet PC development platform running the same build of Windows 8. We haven’t had the chance to give the platform a full working over – not that it would be prudent in its pre-beta state – but we did want to give you a rundown of what Microsoft had to share with us and what we’ve seen so far. Microsoft’s tagline for BUILD is that “Windows 8 changes everything” and while Win8 is not a massive reworking of the Windows kernel, it is a major overhaul of nearly everything else. Certainly based on the pre-beta build on display, you will be using Windows 8 significantly differently from Windows 7.

The big thing with Windows 8 is Metro, which we’ll go more in-depth with in a bit. Microsoft classifies Metro as a style, but in reality Metro is a new version of Windows from the API on up. Metro is the Windows Shell, Metro is an application design paradigm, Metro is a user paradigm, and Metro is the future of Windows application programming. Metro is everywhere – and for ARM it is everything - and it will make (or break) Windows 8.

The Metro UI
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  • cldudley - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    I see these arguments all the time about the application that use the ribbon-based UI, but I don't really see the problem... The most common features are located obviously and are easy to find, what are you using that is inconvenient? Mail-merge maybe, or something less obvious?

    I put together plenty of spreadsheets and documents using Excel/Word 2010, and I have used AutoCAD 2011 pretty extensively too, and I have no problem with the ribbon.

    Maybe I am not doing the tasks you are doing, I write software for specialized controllers, produce drawings and layouts for industrial electrical control equipment, plus write documentation, memos, various tables and schedules, etc. At home I write letters, do the budget, different types of software development, game, etc, and I do not have any of these complaints.

    I think the reality for 99.9999% of people is just the curmudgeon factor. "It's not what I am used to, so I don't like it."
    Reply
  • gmknobl - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    It appears MS is going for a real sea change here. What's hidden may not be either evolutionary or revolutionary but the GUI appears revolutionary, and that's not necessarily good.

    If they keep this to tablets only, they'll have to have a big hardware push at the same time and NO issues. In other words, a system that works as well or better than iOS from the start or they are in trouble in the tablet space. However, I think this is their best bet.

    But as it stands now, if this isn't an easily disabled option for business and home non-tablet, non-phone computing it will fail in that area completely. One thing Apple got right with their OSes has been usability. (I think Amiga did too back in the day, and Android has now too.) MS has taken around three tries before it got a truly usable OS each time, including Win 7 which is essentially Vista SP2. They can't afford that this time. I cannot see this succeeding with desktops or laptops in the least. It's just too jarring, now matter how innovative it may be.

    And I think the whole solid color flat 2d look is dead anyway but that's personal preference.
    Reply
  • avddreamr - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    While this format can and does work adequately in a mobile or rather hand held format the compromises that are made for this sort of functionality are simply unacceptable.

    I hope that this is obvious, because if that's the UI I have to deal with day to day... I will either not upgrade, switch to penguineware, or go fruity.

    I would hope that with the vast collection of talent that works for microsoft have to know that the ui should be tailored for its specific use. Give me a 3d-taskbar, with scalable icons, and I'll be happy with the progress in my desktop.

    I tell myself that they can't honestly be this stupid... but then I remember windows millennium.
    Reply
  • CrapONez - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    I'm at a loss to see how/why Microsoft would abandon a legion of business customers and introduce a new interface requiring retraining, from a mobile device paradigm that it owns a scant few percentage points of. As Kelly Bundy would say: "It wobbles the mind!" Reply
  • alent1234 - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    do companies really spend a lot of money on OS training? Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    No they don't.

    Here is the training for Metro

    "Do you see the massive Window for Icon there in purple... click it"

    Opens Excel in the standard fashion.

    "Do you see the saved excel spreadsheet there, right click and attach to the desktop/ui"

    User scrolls tyo his/her Excel files.

    User... "Ohh that's shiny"
    Reply
  • cldudley - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    This. I have never had any computer "training" other than sitting down in front of the machine and using it.

    I may consult the online help quite a lot at first, but after I get used to how things work it all kind of comes together on it's own.

    Certainly no employer has ever given me a training class for applications, in 2011 it is just assumed you know how to operate a Windows-based computer and basic Office applications. I don't think there is anything wrong with this assumption.
    Reply
  • jecs - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    Ok, tablets, I can see and understand.

    But do I have to pay full price for a tablet shell on a desktop or a workstation? And if W8 is mostly an interface would MS consider W8 a service pack for desktop use?

    I want to skip W8 shell on my desktop, but I may like or need W8 other upgrades at a "fair" reduced price.

    If MS does not understand this I wont pay for W8. Lets hope the best for W9.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    They offered Windows 7 at a reduced price Reply
  • dgingeri - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    It looks a lot like the old Star Trek LCARS system. Sure, LCARS was imaginary for the most part, but the guys who came up with it back when Star Trek: The Next Generation was in pre-production had the same basic ideas behind their design. I'm thinking Paramount might have an nice IP case against Microsoft for this one. Reply

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