Offering a radically different, touch-oriented interface, the upcoming operating system is designed for desktops, laptops, and tablets.

WINDOWS 8 Is on its way, and it will be a departure from the Windows we know and love today. That was the message Microsoft sent in a presentation given at the annual All things digital Conference held near Los Angeles in early June.

At the conference, Microsoft presented a radically re designed Windows interface: instead of the traditional desktop with windows, a taskbar, a start menu, and so on, Microsoft demonstrated an interface that looks reminiscent of Windows Phone 7, its smartphone operating system—complete with touch-friendly live tiles.

Microsoft also discussed features of the new Windows operating system during a press event at the Computex tech conference in Taiwan, showing several prototype devices on stage running the software. Tapping an icon with a finger launches the application and allows it to take up the entire screen, without the usual Windows menus, system tray, and scroll bars at the edges.

“The application comes quickly to life as Windows fades to the background,” said Michael Angiulo, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows planning, hardware, and ecosystem, who demonstrated the new software at Computex.

Within a particular application, users can swipe a finger in from the right edge of the screen to make menu items for that program appear, for example, or swipe from the left side to switch between open applications.

Tile-Based Interface

Microsoft has posted a video ( that shows some of the OS’s new features. Most notably, the company says that Windows 8 is designed not only for laptops and desktops, but also for tablets (which makes sense, given its big, touch-friendly buttons and visual style). The tile-based interface replaces the traditional start menu, according to Microsoft. The video also shows regular Windows programs running in a separate, traditional desktop mode that you can switch to with just the press of a button.

The software will be compatible with all Windows 7 applications and peripherals, the company says. Still, developers will have much to learn, and Microsoft announced a new conference, called Build, that will take place in september in Anaheim, California, where they can find out more about the new OS.

Applications made specifically for Windows 8 will be a somewhat different beast: they’ll “use the power of HTML 5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML,” the company says. It remains to be seen whether Windows 8–specific programs will be based entirely on HTML 5, JavaScript, and other Web technologies, or whether they’ll also have tie-ins to more-traditional app-development tools that Microsoft offers.

What’s interesting about Windows 8 is that it’s another step toward making PCs more tabletlike. Apple is making Mac OS X more iPad-like with Lion’s iOS-inspired features, though Windows 8 seems to go one step further in merging the tablet and the PC. There will probably be some resistance to these changes, and we’ll have to wait and see how everything turns out in practice, but the writing is on the wall.



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