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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  • Zan Lynx - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Interesting isn't it, that Microsoft has made versions of Server 2008 that don't have a desktop.

    I haven't run a server with a GUI in the last 12 years. Who would?

    Text file based configuration that can be remotely managed, programmed and monitored entirely by script...

    Using a GUI to point and click is horribly inefficient and doesn't scale to more than two servers.

    Real sysadmins don't do pretty. They want it to work. Real sysadmins don't spend time clicking GUI buttons configuring new machines. They boot them and they auto-configure from the network. You never touch a GUI. Just the power button.

    You might use a GUI to configure one user as a template in Active Directory. You'd never use the GUI to add 100 new employees to the system.

    The real use for the GUI is to distract the management while you get real work done behind the scenes using a laptop and an SSH command line.

    A GUI for tiling your command windows might be acceptable. Barely.
    Reply
  • smithg5 - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    My point wasn't that all sysadmins use GUIs now, but that the GUI hasn't gotten in the way of sysadmin work on a command-line, even though in most cases for Windows it starts up with the computer. This is a useful analogy for all these fears about Metro in a business environment.

    That said, most of the volume Microsoft sees for Windows server is that "two servers" size environment. Most businesses don't even have 100 employees. For the rest you'll still have your desktop, and that desktop will still have a command-line interface. And hey, they might even make desktop-less, Metro-less versions for the enterprise. If they don't, it won't somehow make your text-file configuration, CLI remote administration wizardry stop working. You'll just be a couple of clicks from that when you start up your server/laptop, and then you'll have something pretty to look at during your breaks. Those servers that you never see the desktop of will benefit from a smaller memory footprint. What's the problem?
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    No, not really. For the vast majority, the gui represented a way to use a computer that made sense to more people.

    Metro is just a kind of gui, but heavily designed around touch and full screen tablet style use.

    It's simply a bad fit for desktop users. I tried the dev preview, and I'm not impressed in the slightest.

    This time, it isn't about resisting change for the sake of it. Really. The dev preview is seriously quite bad. Keyboard and mouse wise, it just sucks.
    Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    I've got the Developer Preview Up and running on a machine and I must say that I absolutely hate it! Whenever I click on the Windows Start Icon (lower left corner) you go to the Start Screen (METRO GUI), the Start Menu is gone! That's just not cool. Also the full screen metro apps are real easy to get lost in, it's begging for some kind of Mac OS X like Mission Control to see all running processes. There is no Back Button, I have to hit the Windows key to get back to the Start Screen. The Desktop (which has been standard on every Windows machine since the dawn of time) is now a strange bolt-on appendage to the METRO GUI experience. I don't know...this isn't beta yet and things may change....but so far consider me one totally pissed off Windows user...this shit isn't Windows. Feels more like Vista meets Bob. Oh, and calling icons "Charms" is gay. Reply
  • UMADBRO - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Well, at least you tried it. But try and remember, this is still a pre-beta, and isnt finished yet. Reply
  • Icehawk - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    What are they trying to achieve? If it is one OS to rule them all I think they are making some serious mistakes as I do not believe traditional computing will be dominated by cellphones or tablets, they serve a much different function and will continue to do so indefinitely IMO. The apparent dumbing down of the OS to mimic a smartphone seems like a terrible idea to me.

    *Assuming* the desktop/Metro experience isn't radically altered the paradigm shift to right-hand panes (ie, the "charms" menu) makes no sense, for the last 10-15 years we've worked from the left. Works fine if I'm using a tablet but that is it - on a desktop nothing could be more jarring. Especially when it isn't uniform, for example the Start menu still pops up on the left. Ugg.

    Also why does anyone think I want a touchscreen on my desktop? How am I supposed to reach it my arms are not 3' long! I guess we'll be forced at the least to use multi-touch pads? I hope it will work in tandem with a mouse since I'm not sure how the hell I'd game using a touchpad.
    Reply
  • Shinya - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Microsoft,

    I really dont care for Ubuntu (lack of support and games) and OSX (lack of games, software, etc etc)

    Please don't make me switch.

    give us the ability to turn off Metro when it releases
    Reply
  • ct82fl - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    I think if Microsoft really wants to succeed in the tablet market with their OS, they really need to figure out a new innovative way to navigate. I saw very similar things to Apple's OS and iOS. In order to beat the competition they are going to need to figure this out and figure it quickly. Reply
  • cyberguyz - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Sorry but I am a power user of my computers. I don't want them looking or working like a tablet or my iPod.

    While I am usually on the bleeding edge with Windows, from beta onward with each release, this is one I am most definitely sitting out. It does not appeal to the way I want to use my computer at all. For a tablet that I am not expecting to use for heavy input or output, Win8 is just too cumbersome and tied to mouse or touch as primary inputs.
    Reply
  • Rand - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    A few suggestions, make CERTAIN your applications all have different names. If your applications have an uninstall.exe they will all be grouped together on the start screen with no way to differentiate them or tell which is for what program.
    Similarly, if your apps have a config.exe you won't be able to tell which is for which without opening them individually. Any executables must have clearly differentiated names that indicate precisely what they are.

    Also, you absolutely must trim down your bookmarks to only a handful. If you're accustomed to having a 100-200 bookmarks in various folders in your browser, that isn't going to work well at all in Windows 8. You'll end up with screen after screen after screen of bookmarks.
    I don't think it's remotely practical or usable any longer to have more then a dozen bookmarks at the most.
    Reply

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