It was a great session yesterday over at the Windows 8 "Build" event.
Here are some of my takeaways in short:
The PC is not dead. It's just evolving into becoming extra portable, "touch" centric, flat, simple, synergetic, dynamic.
Microsoft kept using the term PC, ignoring the "post-PC" term that has been commonly used in the last few months. They used the word tablet here and there although it was obvious that the entire change in the Windows UI (Metro) is mainly for tablet devices.
Microsoft is making a huge bet on the "Metro Style User Interface".
As a Windows Phone 7 user I like this direction, Metro UI is amazing, it's fresh, it's different. Unfortunately, it's also kind of shocking. Not something everyone likes. In fact, it's one of those things you can either love or hate. Therefore, a wild gamble. (One of my friends who sat next to me was not pleased with it that much and I'm sure he will not be the only one).
Let's put it this way: although Windows Phone 7 or Zune (the older products to use Metro) were not a big success in terms of sales - Microsoft is determined to continue with this direction. Bold move. Goods luck.
For the ones who are less familiar with the Metro Style UI: it’s a topography-based design language. It is heavily relying on text as the primary form of navigation. The user interface is very simplistic, flat, minimalistic, chromeless. It uses a lot of signs which we are familiar with since they can be found in metro stations, airports, cities al over the world.
After building the entire Windows Phone 7 experience using Metro, Windows 8 will now have 2 modes:
- Desktop mode - this is the old fashion style of Windows we are all familiar with
- Slate mode - this is the Metro style, and in Windows 8 it will be the main user interface for portable devices (tablets, netbooks, touch screens).
The slate interface will have live tiles, like in Windows Phone. It means you get a sneak preview of the app in the main screen. If it's an email - you see how many new emails you have, if it's a twitter app - you see a number of new messages. It's kind of like a simple, one dimensional widget which is part of the main screen.
Windows 8 lock-screen will also be similar to the Windows Phone one, here are both of them side by side:
With Microsoft's new development tools, developers will be able to build Metro Style apps which are lightweight and look part of the overall design. There will be a lot of new API's for those new generation of apps. Including special "sharing" capabilities where each app can expose data for sharing with other apps, expose data for the global search function of Windows, share images, or clipboard information (text, etc.). Microsoft calls it "Contracts".
Microsoft is trying to create an environment where apps can talk to each other through those "sharing" capabilities so that unlike iOS for instance, where each app is more of a standalone, Windows 8 apps will live in synergy with one another. I like that.
Old applications, BTW, will continue to supported, but they will not have all of those Metro-Style special capabilities.
Here is something I didn't quite figure out yet.
On one hand, Microsoft demonstrated a mode where 2 apps are working side by side on one screen. That's great for collaborating data or using 2 editors in parallel. I'm sure every iPad user knows this kind of functionality could really help when trying to do real work on an iPad.
On the other hand, Microsoft demonstrated how background Metro-style apps use zero CPU when minimized. Well, isn't that what iOS does with background apps? Yep. And it means that those apps are actually NOT RUNNING in the background. They are SLEEPING in the background. When talking about Windows - I think that may end up to be a serious issue.
Html5 vs. Silverlight:
The new development tools allow developers to build Metro apps with C/C++, C# or VB, Silverlight and also web technologies.
Yes, remember webOS? It was the first operating system to run web apps "natively" and now Windows 8 will allow it too. That's great.
What wasn't so great is that all of the apps that Microsoft demonstrated (namely: Windows Store, Emails, Calendar, Twitter) were built using Html5 and Java Script. They looked exactly like the Windows Phone 7 apps but they were not using Silverlight.
My take? Something is fishy. Why did MS choose to write all those apps with Html/JS instead of sticking with Silverlight?
My guess is that just like WPF (which is practically dead already), Silverlight is in this kind of a shaky situation currently. If I were a developer I wouldn't start building my apps using Silverlight. It will be interesting to see what will happen with Windows Phone in this respect.
Html5 continues to gain strength, and Microsoft showed some cool demoes running inside the Metro Style IE10:
Other Noticeable Keynotes:
The demo also showed some impressive hardware pieces: flat laptops, tablets, etc.
Microsoft speakers barely used the term tablets, and did not mention iPad even once. They kept using the terms: PC and slates. What a world.
Boot time seemed to be suspiciously fast (less than 8 seconds!). I think iPad takes longer to start.
In addition, Windows will now have a new mode: "Connected Standby" in which the apps are sleeping but the device is still running, push notifications and alerts can still popup. Similar to the statuses most phones are using when they are closed.
Oh, and there was some clouds too. Windows 8 is fully cloud enabled. SkyDrive is Microsoft's answer to the cloud services other giants are building, and it looks like it's pretty solid.
I was impressed with the new stuff Microsoft demoed in the conference. It looks good, it has the "coolness" factor, I like the Metro Style, I even started collecting examples of it all over the place… I think that Microsoft is finally stepping (for real this time) into the world of Html5, and I believe that tablets that will be running Windows 8 will make a lot of sense.
Will it succeed? Wait for my next post about 3 possible scenarios that can happen with Windows 8 and the tablets world… (Coming soon)
Read more about Windows 8 at 'Build':