Windows 8 Shines at Build Keynote
Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Windows Experience Julie Larson-Green demoed the new Metro-inspired UI of Windows 8, showing off many of the touch- and gesture-based features first seen at a pair of industry conferences in June.
The demo kicked off with Larson-Green authenticating onto a Windows 8 PC using the new Picture Password feature, which accepts touch and gesture inputs rather than keyboard characters to authenticate the user. Larson-Green then demonstrated how users can navigate the panel-based interface, swiping between screens and zooming in and out of screen elements.
She also showed off Windows 8 "charms," a set of five icons (Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings) that are accessed by swiping from the right edge of the screen. The charms provide access to application and system functionality previously nested within the Start button in Windows 7. (See this article for more information.)
The new expanded Search feature reaches beyond traditional desktop and Web search to provide context-savvy search of applications, as well as to plumb user-connected services like Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. Share functionality exposes what Sinofsky called "a semantically rich clipboard" for applications to share content with each other.
Said Sinofsky: "You don't have to try figure out how to get connected to everything else, we'll help you do that through sharing contracts."
Sinofsky said Microsoft focused on creating a "fast and fluid" experience in Windows 8, while emphasizing the richness that can occur when applications become fully aware of each other.
"What we set out to do is not what you see with so many other platforms where the apps are these silos and they barely know about each other. They go through tiny APIs to do things," Sinofsky concluded. "We have this bold notion that apps should work together as a web of apps. That when you get additional apps the system gets richer and richer."
The Developer Story
Sinofsky then dove into the development infrastructure driving Windows 8 application development. He noted the siloed structure of development across Web,with managed and unmanaged development today, and how Windows 8 is poised to change that.
"We've done a huge amount of work to reimagine the whole way that we think of tools, languages and the platform, so they call come together as a unified story for you."
Antoine Leblond, senior vice president of Windows Web Services, then came on stage to build an HTML 5 application using a developer preview of Visual Studio 11 Express. The demo showed how Visual Studio provides equivalent template support across all the supported language.
"You are going to get the same templates in each one," Sinofsky interjected. "The Windows RT just supports all the languages out of the gate."
Leblond also showed off HTML support in the developer preview of Expression Blend. "Blend is a tool for editing XAML, not a tool for editing HTML. Well, the new version of Blend can take all the great stuff it can do in XAML and is able to do it in HTML and CSS as well," Leblond said.
Leblond also showed how applications can be surfaced on the Windows Store, using a simple, template based process that is embedded within Visual Studio 11. "We are going to have a certification process for applications," said Leblond, who also showed a certification status screen that provides information on where an application is in the process.
Sinofsky said that Windows Store will support for Metro-style applications and Win32-based programs.
Michael Angiulo, corporate vice president of Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem then took the stage to provide an energetic rundown of a variety of Windows 8-ready devices and PCs, ranging from light tablets to a powerhouse PC that produces 4.7-teraflops.
Angiulo showed off the fast and secure boot UEFI process. A current notebook booted from shutdown in just 8 seconds during the demo. "It can boot almost faster than the monitor can start up," Angiulo said.
He also showed how UEFI can prevent a rootkit infection from a bootable USB thumbdrive.
The biggest round of applause came when Sinofsky and Angiulo announced that all attendees would receive a Samsung Windows Developer Preview PC. This tablet system is loaded with developer preview versions of Windows 8, Visual Studio and other tools and applications to allow developers to work with the emerging platforms and technologies.
The developer preview of Windows 8 is going live Tuesday night. For more coverage of what's coming in Windows 8, go here.
A video of the full keynote is currently available for replay on the Build Web site here.
Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.