Thursday, June 2, 2011

Windows 8 Preview at D9: An innovative blend of desktop, tablet, and phone designs.

Windows-8-start-menuToday was a pretty slow news day, up until a few interviews at the All Things Digital D9 conference started lighting up the social networks this afternoon. The conference opened yesterday with Actor Jane Lynch setting the mood, followed up with Eric Schmidt talking about privacy and the “Gang of four” platform war. Today there were interviews with the CEOs of Twitter, HP, Groupon, Adobe, Netflix, Square, and Alibaba among others. Near the end of the day Walt Mossberg interviewed Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, which is when my twitter feed started to explode with interesting comments.
Sadly there was no streaming video, but I was able to follow along a bit using the live blogging from Ina Fried for the Microsoft and Nokia interviews. The thing that really caught my eye was the video that Microsoft released that previews the new features in the next version of Windows, codenamed Windows 8:

In the video they showed a new Start screen that looks a lot like the start screen in Windows phone but has been optimized to work in a widescreen tablet format with larger live tiles and a more vivid color scheme. They also showed off new multitasking gestures for switching applications or snapping them to the side of the screen, as well as a touch based keyboard with Ctrl and arrow keys and support for a thumb based layout. Microsoft also demoed the software running on a wide range of computers: everything from tablets to slates to laptops and devices without touchscreens:
There are still a lot of questions to be answered about the new features in Windows 8 that were not answered by Steven Sinofsky at D9, but Microsoft is saving those for their new Build Windows developers conference later this September. Many .NET developers will be very interested in learning more about the new HTML5/JS development framework (myself included), and I may even cough up the money to go to the conference in person. I really hope that they release a public beta like they did with Windows 7, so that I can start playing around with it before it is released sometime in 2012/2013.
The interview with the CEO of Nokia was also very interesting, although I wish they would release the full uncut version instead of just the highlights. Like the HP interview there was a lot of interesting tidbits, but you lose sense of the context when there are lots of quick jumps in the video/audio. All in all it was a great conference, and followed previous years that showed features in Bing (D7 2009) and Windows 7 (D6 2008) (Video: one and two). Makes me anxious to see what will be previewed at D10 and beyond.
Update: Looks like there was more Windows 8 coverage over at Computex 2011 in Taipei today. Engadget has great coverage on their live blog, with pictures of ARM based netbooks and tablets and a few more technical details about Windows 8.