This, friends, is Windows 8. Or at least, it’s the next generation of Microsoft’s Windows operating system. The company made a point of saying that “Windows 8” is just the internal codename for the next-gen platform; other potential names that have been floating around the net include the snappy “Windows Next”.
As was widely rumored, the new version of Windows has a tough-friendly layer designed to make navigating the system with just a finger or two easier. The screenshot above is the new Start menu, which takes clear inspiration from Microsoft’s mobile operating system, Windows Phone. Of particular interest in this image is the lower-left hand tile, which is one of the first official acknowledgements that a Windows app store is coming.
Beneath this touch-friendly layer sits the more familliar Windows desktop, with all of its traditional or legacy apps. As Microsoft puts it, these are the applications that work well with finger input, but work best with a keyboard and mouse (as opposed to the touch-oriented apps, which work well with a keyboard and mouse, but work best with your fingers). Tapping at these apps with a finger can be frustrating, however, so Microsoft put a fair bit of math behind the touch layer called “fuzzy hit targeting”. The software analyzes what you’re trying to do and where you’re trying to touch, and activates the desired area.
There’s not a lot more information than that, at least not yet. We’ve seen some hidden bits revealed thanks to early pre-beta copies being leaked online. There are a few indications that Kinect support, or something similar, will be built into the software, allowing for the operating system to log you in using only some brief facial recognition algorithms. IE10 will be the system’s main browser at launch, though it may hit public before the full OS goes mainstream.
Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s President of the Windows Division, also made a point of discussing how Windows 8 will continue the trend set by Windows 7 – that the next-gen OS is targeted to require even fewer resources than its predecessor, just like how Windows 7 could run on any system suitable for Windows Vista. It’s a marked change in attitude at Microsoft; from the early days, Bill Gates implemented a semi-official policy that it didn’t matter if Windows bloated, since increasingly powerful hardware could take care of any slowdowns.
The next time we’ll get more info probably won’t occur until September, when Microsoft is hosting a Build Windows event targeted at developers. Are there any features you’re looking for? Any surprises you hope to avoid? Sound off in the comments!