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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  • Booster - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    It's the ribbon again, but infinitely worse. Metro is just outright stupid, that is.

    I remember watching a presentation by Julie Larson-Green where she pitched the ribbon back in 2006. IIRC she said that they listened to the users and created the ribbon according to their usage scenarios. So according to her the ribbon was next best thing since sliced bread.

    Who were they listening to? The ribbon looks better give or take, but it's less useful in the workflow, it's less effective, it's just plain worse than the old concept. That division of MS doesn't listen to users, it's like a dictatorship in which we have to use our PCs the way that madam wants us to. But she doesn't do any actual work on the PC like me for example. Hell, you can't even preview a page or print without setting up the ribbon, where's the usability? Why do I have to scroll between all those damn tiles?

    This Windows 8 fiasco is where MS finally needs to realize the situation and finally take the matters well in hand.
    Reply
  • archer75 - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    You do realize you don't have to use the metro tile UI right? You can boot right in to a traditional desktop like you are used to.
    Plenty of updates here for the desktop user.

    Really this new metro UI just provides a better layer for tablets but the OS is still there which i'm really pumped about. I don't know how often i've been using my ipad and wishing I could access a real OS on it.
    Reply
  • Moricon - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    "Overall Windows 8 is extremely jarring right now from a desktop user perspective. Metro is the Windows shell, no ifs ands or butts. Metro applications can only be accessed through the Metro shell (i.e. the Start Screen), and the Metro shell is always what the tablet will boot up into. Explorer as we know it is the Metro shell – if you kill it, you kill Metro shell with it – so at this time it’s not possible to boot up into the traditional Windows desktop. Even if you could, the Start Menu is gone, replaced with Metro charms."

    Metro IS the windows Shell--- METRO IS EXPLORER!!!!

    Have you loaded the build, I have, played with it. IT SUCKS bigtime!

    Microsoft will go back on this, the pressure will be to great from the desktop user!

    There are improvements, better memory management, faster boot process, safer recovery options, faster work-flow (yes ribbon is actually better for non-power users, who use keyboard shortcuts.)

    Why can they not just bring those improvements to th Win desktop version and leave metro to Tablets, Netbooks and ARM anyway.

    My days of PC Gaming are coming to a close, most Games are crap! Looks seriously like Mint will become my main Work OS and I will keep a copy of WIN7 for my back catalog of games!
    Reply
  • MrBungle123 - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    How is this Metro crap going to work for those of us that make a living with a mouse and keyboard?

    I work in IT, I have to do everything from assisting users to writing programs. Its not uncommon for me to have Visual Studio, Outlook, IE, 2 databases, and 5 or 6 Remote Desktop connections going on at the same time.

    There is no way in hell I'm putting this garbage on my work computer, nor am i going to install it on any of the desktops/servers connected to my network. This is a user training nightmare, the resistance to migrating to Vista from XP is nothing compared to what the resistance of migrating from Win7 to Win8 will be if the final product is anything like this.
    Reply
  • talk2dfox - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    Does anyone else think Windows 8 seems to have no coherent strategy?

    For users:

    1) two different types of applications, which can't run side by side: what do you do if you are a business user who needs to switch efficiently between one application which is Metro-based and another which is not?

    2) switch to the desktop and click on the start button and you're back at the Metro UI? huh? Are the only desktop applications I can start directly from the desktop UI the ones which have links on the desktop?

    3) some settings are in the metro control panel, others in the old windows control panel

    4) too many gestures which will be impossible to remember because they bear no relation to anything you've used before. The whole reason why the touch experience of iPhone et al has caught on (and why even small children catch on to it quickly) is that it is familiar. Want to move what's currently on the screen up? put your finger on it and move it up as if it were a physical object. Want to zoom? use two fingers to "stretch" or "shrink" the image. So, what's the comparable analogy in Metro for swiping up to select a button? There isn't any. Not that Microsoft had much choice - they're trying to graft a touch experience onto an existing Windows UI which has too many different functions without physical analogies, so some of them are bound to be mapped to something weird. But that's the point - trying to graft a touch experience onto the existing Windows UI is never going to produce something coherent and intuitive.

    For developers:

    5) yet another API, but all the old APIs (.net and win32) still supported (but only on x86, not ARM).

    6) If you are starting to develop an application today, what should you use?

    Will an app built for Windows Phone 7 today be portable to Metro (and sellable via the Windows 8 store)? If not, will it run at all on an ARM-based metro phone or tablet? What about an x86 based tablet or desktop?

    What if you want to write an application to be used on Win 8 on all form factors? The only thing which will run on Win 8 on ARM will be Metro, but the development tools for Metro don't exist yet. Think about how far WP7 is behind iPhone and Android today, and then consider what the situation will be like for Win 8 which is just now reaching the point where Microsoft can demo the UI and talk about development.

    Contrast this situation with iOS/OS X: With a single language (objective C), a single development environment (xcode), and two variants of essentially the same framework (Cocoa), you can target iPhone/iPad and Mac.
    Reply

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