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Microsoft showed a detailed preview of the next major release of Windows, code-named Windows 8 at BUILD, the company’s annual conference for developers. No compromises. Windows reimagined. Those are the two of the taglines that Microsoft executives repeated over and over as they gave the first detailed view of Windows 8 to the the thousands of developers in attendance.
“We reimagined Windows,” said Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft, in his keynote address. According to Microsoft, Windows 8 offers the most comprehensive OS upgrade since Windows 95. “From the chipset to the user experience, Windows 8 brings a new range of capabilities without compromise,” said Sinofsky.
Here are 10 things to know about the new OS.
According to the preview, the new Windows uses the tile-based Metro user interface found in Windows Phone 7. This makes it particularly suitable for use on tablets where the touch-interface will allow easy navigation between tiles.
The interface is a personalised layout with clean typography and animations. The new interface is built for touch. The new Start Screen puts all of user’s apps in front of him for immediate access.
Windows 8 has two touch keyboards. A full-sized touch keyboard with larger buttons and a thumb keyboard. The touch keyboard includes several features to speed up your typing and make it more accurate.
To make typing more efficient, Windows suggests words on screen as you type, allowing you to choose the suggested word with a single tap. Windows 8 will also work on PCs with regular mouse and keyboard commands.
The keyboard adapts to different languages. On touch-based computers, the layout of the keyboard automatically adjusts to the language you choose for Windows. Your input and language settings automatically apply to the whole computer rather than to just specific programmes.
Microsoft is also promising a seamless cloud experience that will keep Windows 8 devices synced. “With SkyDrive, you can access your files, photos and documents from virtually anywhere with any browser or with Metro style apps in Windows 8,” the company claimed.
Sinofsky stressed that the new operating system is the first to focus on applications — it will contain an online app store for the first time — reflecting the way people use computers, tablets and smartphones.
According to Microsoft, Windows 8 uses just 281MB of RAM, down from 404MB in Windows 7. According to Sinofsky, “…all the new capabilities are native to the core OS, not layered on top of it.”
Microsoft has also reportedly revised its hardware specifications so that new PCs can boot up faster, better support solid-state drives, support disks as large as 256TB, reduce power usage through real-time component management and support touchscreens.
For the first time in the history of Windows, the new version will not only support x86 processors made by Intel and AMD but also ARM architecture.
Microsoft in January said that support for Windows 8 would extend beyond x86 to ARM processors, which are found in most tablets and smartphones. Microsoft is working with Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to bring Windows 8 to ARM.
The new OS also includes a new task manager that will allow users to view statistics, such as CPU usage, memory usage and performance for both apps and processes. The company has also modified the Control Panel in Windows 8.
At Windows 8 demo, Microsoft officials showed a system cold boot in eight seconds. In the Building Windows 8 blog, Sinofsky said “We designed Windows 8 so that you shouldn’t have to boot all that often (and we are always going to work on reducing the number of required restarts due to patching running code). But when you do boot we want it to be as fast as possible.”
Microsoft has said that Windows 8 will not run on smartphones, which will use Windows Phone 7 instead.
Microsoft has announced that Windows 8 will ship with native support for Near Field Communications or NFC.
Microsoft has not announced a release date for the OS so far. Sinofsky said that the process would be “driven by quality, not by a date.”