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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  • broccauley - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    actually, if you connect a mouse to Android a cursor will appear. Reply
  • faizoff - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    Wonder when the Beta release will be to the public. Reply
  • KPOM - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    From what I've seen so far, Windows 8 looks very promising. For those who are skeptical of the Metro UI in the enterprise, consider that Apple is making inroads into the Enterprise market with the iPad. Companies are issuing them to executives and traveling professionals to keep up with e-mail and log into their intranets. A Windows 8 tablet or Ultrabook might allow them to have a single device for everything. Reply
  • sviola - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    Agreed. And it will probably have much less resistance from the IT department as well. Reply
  • sticks435 - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    That may work for non-tech people, but it won't fly at any IT related company. I hardly doubt they are going to make SQL Developer, Apache directory studio, Eclipse or any dev related apps for Metro. Reply
  • KPOM - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    From what I've seen so far, Windows 8 looks very promising. For those who are skeptical of the Metro UI in the enterprise, consider that Apple is making inroads into the Enterprise market with the iPad. Companies are issuing them to executives and traveling professionals to keep up with e-mail and log into their intranets. A Windows 8 tablet or Ultrabook might allow them to have a single device for everything. Reply
  • trip1ex - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    That dream will not happen. Tablets that can actually run Win8 will be too hot, and heavy with crappy battery life to make a good tablet so then why bother?

    Reply
  • UMADBRO - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    Because obviously, you have leaped into the future, got a finished version of Windows 8, finalized and production quality hardware, and have completely ran it through its paces. Thank you, sir, for the future insight. No more questions remain. PRAISE Trip1ex! Reply
  • ph0tek - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    You're a moron. Reply
  • Decaff - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    First of all, thanks for a great article which covered alot of the things we can expect in Windows 8 (or whatever the final name will be).

    Now, I'm left to wonder about a few things. One issue that springs to mind is that MSE now appears to be integrated into the OS to some extent. How will this upset the AV vendors, and how does it affect corporate users who can currently only use MSE if they have up to 10 machines?

    Now, that was mostly a technicality. It is mentioned in the article that you can pinch to zoom on the start-screen, and the tiles would change size and adapt. Wouldn't this make it somewhat more effecient to use a mouse and a keyboard? Also, wouldn't it be a simple fix to allow the mouse-wheel to scroll left and right in the tiles display? Down goes left and up goes right?

    Personally, I am also very interested in seeing how the metro UI will handle file organisation. I can definately see the alure of using the metro ui to browse my files, but how will it handle renaming and moving of files when I try to organise files belonging to different programs (i'm a university student, so I keep .pdf .docx, pictures and other types huddled together for projects). Typically, touch interfaces have done away with the traditional folder structure and instead used the relevant program to access the file structure (i.e. want to check your PDF, open adobe reader).

    I'm also left to wonder whether the Repair function isn't simply a rebadging of the old system restore function, which has existed since XP as far as I recall. That one also left the user's files on the drive, and only looked at installed programs and such. Still, it is nice that they are putting more emphasis on it now, and the "revert to stock" function is becoming to obvious to the user. Hopefully, this will futher eliminate the need for DVD's with backups.

    I do think the Metro UI holds some great promises, though not for the hardcore users. There will probably always be a need for a psychical keyboard and mouse in order to perform certain tasks, and I couldn't imagine writing anything serious on an on-screen keyboard. Though just imagine having the metro UI for a tablet, and being able to dock it to a traditional setup with mouse, keyboard and a big monitor and getting some work done. All without the need for extra devices. Or a dock-able keyboard, creating a laptop for the road along the lines of the Asus Transformer.

    For me, I think the Metro UI is a great evolution for Windows, towards the current user scenarios, which is that the computer is more quite casually. The great part here is, that even if the connected part will sync all my photos from my phone and whatnot, I will still be able to attach a proper DSLR through a USB port and access all my photos in an instant, something which is hardly possible on most other tablets these days.

    Some have mentioned the corporate side of bringing in a new interface, but in reality, do corporations really spend time and actual resources teaching personnel how to use the OS? Historically, corporations have always been very late to adopting new OS'es, which begs the question, whether or not training will really be necessary once people have gotten acquained with the OS privately.

    There are still alot of questions that needs to be answered on how Microsoft plans on integrating some of the more mundane tasks into the new UI, and as always, I think their succes will largely be defined by their attention to detail, and ensuring that users can "live" in the Metro UI while still maintaining their productivity or even increasing it.
    Reply

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