Windows President Steven Sinofsky gave the first live demo of Windows 8 here at the D9 conference in southern California. At first blush, it seems like the most radical overhaul of the aging OS in its nearly 30-year history. Designed to be as usable on a touchscreen as on a traditional desktop device, it borrows much of the look and feel of Windows Phone 7. (Indeed, the phone team at Redmond was heavily involved in Windows 8′s design.)
“What we tried to do with Windows 8 was reimagine what we want to do with a PC,” Sinofsky said. “We colored outside the lines.”
The homescreen has become a series of tiles, each leading to their own app — just as in Windows Phone 7. The tiles can be customized. One of those tiles leads directly to a more traditional Windows desktop. Another is marked “Store,” suggesting that Microsoft is going to follow Apple down the road of putting an App Store on the desktop (although Sinofsky didn’t confirm that).
A demo by Microsoft VP Julie Larson-Green, which she writes about here, included a number of apps running at once. The apps could be switched by swiping from the left corner and could also be dragged on the same screen in any combination. Swiping from the right brought up a menu bar.
Sinofsky was at pains to point out that despite the unusual look and feel, this was still the same OS at root. “Everything that runs on Windows 7, every peripheral, will run on this,” he said. He wouldn’t say when the launch date was, beyond confirming that it would be 2012 at the earliest.
Here is a video Microsoft just released, walking us through Windows 8.