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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  • rs2 - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    "On a final note about system requirements, while Microsoft isn’t talking about specific versions of Windows 8 at this time, they’ve made it clear that x86 will live on for at least one more generation in order to fulfill their desire to have Windows 8 run on everything Windows 7 ran on."

    Hang on a second. Did you seriously just imply that Windows (or any other major OS) is going to drop support for x86? Or that there was *ever* any doubt that Windows 8 would not support x86? I think you've gone at least a little bit crazy.

    x86 is here to stay, for at least the forseeable future (which I think gets us to around Windows 12). No software company is going to be willing to cede the entire x86 market to their competitors or ditch x86 as a platform just because phones and tablets tend to run ARM processors. Doing either of those things makes absolutely no sense at all.
  • Rand - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    I think he means X86-32, MS hasn't made any statements implying that X86 uarch as a whole is going anywhere. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Correct. x86 as opposed to x64 (since that's the nomenclature MS uses). Windows 8 will have 32bit x86 editions; MS won't transition to solely 64bit x64 for another generation. Reply
  • rs2 - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Then the nomenclature used by MS is incorrect. x86-64 (or apparently, x64 is MS-speak) is fully x86 compatible, even down to support for 16-bit "real mode". As such x86 will always live on, even if Windows does eventually require an x86-64 based processor. Reply
  • loll123 - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Yes, but the issue is whether Windows will support processors that only have the x86-32 part of the instruction set. Reply
  • Lugaidster - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Do you need to submit an app to the store in order to install a metro application or are metro applications still downloadable like regular apps? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    I can't completely answer this but I will do as much as I can.

    ARM: The Store is the only way to get applications

    x86: Applications can still be installed normally

    With that said I can't completely answer where Metro fits in, because that specific question was never asked or a suitable answer given. Certainly Metro applications using MS's DRM scheme will need to go through the Store to make the licensing click. But Metro apps without DRM...?
  • Lugaidster - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    I was thinking of something like business apps or apps that would never be approved because of content (the major reason jailbreaking exist on an iPad is because of the latter). It would be great if you could sideload metro apps... Reply
  • Stas - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    When I used Win98, I was stoked when I first heard about Windows XP. Absolutely loved it, after I started using it.
    Windows Vista also made me anxious about the wait. Unfortunately, I wasn't as pleased; however, still satisfied.
    Windows 7 is by far the best OS I ever used. That is exactly how I thought it would turn out when I decided to download the RC version.
    Today though, I'm looking at this simplified experience for ADD kids, and I'm rather disappointed. Huge buttons, lack of menus and options, and I bet they killed off kb shortcuts :/ I would expect this from Apple; but MS... son, I'm disappoint *face palm*
    I will still try it, whenever RC is available but I'm not holding my breath for something useful, efficient, and flexible. I'm sure it will be a great tablet OS though. Now, just to figure out why in the world I would need a tablet with powerful desktop, and a high-end smart phone...
  • loll123 - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    I have ADD and I started my computing career on MS-DOS when I was 3 years old. So don't go around and make comments like that please. Reply

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