ANAHEIM, Calif.—Microsoft Corp. Tuesday (Sept. 13) gave the most detailed preview yet of the next major release of its Windows operating system, which features support for processors based on the ARM architecture, touch screens and a "metro style" interface.
"We re-imagined Windows," said Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft, in the keynote address at the Microsoft Build conference here. "From the chipset to the user experience, Windows 8 brings a new range of capabilities without compromise."
Microsoft will officially release a developer pre-release of Microsoft 8 at Build Tuesday evening. Sinofsky said the company will later release a beta version of the OS and then, finally, the full version of Windows 8. He did not provide a timeline. "We are going to be driven by the quality and not by a date," Sinofsky said.
In the keynote presentation, Microsoft took pains to demonstrate the ease of writing applications for Windows 8. The company offered a demonstration of writing a photo-sharing application on stage in only 58 lines of code.
Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, speaks at the company's Build conference Tuesday.
Questions about compatibility have lingered around Windows 8, with some OEMs saying privately that Microsoft has been less than forthcoming with information about whether Windows for ARM-based systems would support all applications built for x86 systems. Sinofsky seemed to be trying to lay these concerns to rest by emphasizing compatibility, saying that applications built for Windows 8 will run on all hardware that Windows 8 supports.
"These applications will run on all new Windows 8 PCs," Sinofsky said.
In addition to ARM-based and x86 chipsets, Windows 8 will support x64 and x32 devices, according to Microsoft.
Sinofsky also touched on the Windows Store, which he said will allow developers to sell their applications worldwide. "Every new Windows PC is a target customer," he told developers. "Realize, that could be more than 400 million people when this project launches."
The start screen for Windows 8.
Michael Angiulo, corporate vice president of the planning and PC ecosystem team at Microsoft, showed demonstrations of Windows 8 running on tablets and notebooks powered by Qualcomm Inc.'s Snapdragon processor, Texas Instruments Inc.'s OMAP, Nvida Corp.'s Tegra and Intel Corp. processors, including Ultrabooks, Intel's early-stage concept for ultra-light, low-power notebooks.
Microsoft also emphasized the boot up speed of Windows 8 PCs compared to those that run previous versions of Windows. Angiulo said the boot up speed is roughly eight seconds and that some early systems can actually boot up faster than the monitor can turn on.
Microsoft said ultra-thin PCs and tablets that run Windows 8 will run all day on a single charge and stay connected to the Internet.
Windows 8 will also feature an enhanced Task Manager and Windows Explorer and new, flexible options for multimonitor setups. Sinofsky joked that "it's been about 20 years" since Microsoft updated the Windows Task Manager.
Sinofsky said Windows 8 applications communicate with each other to create a more powerful system. "We had this bold notion that apps should work together as a web of apps on your machine," he said. "That when you get new apps the apps would work together and the system just gets richer and richer."
Chris Jones, senior vice president of Windows and Windows Live, demonstrated features on Windows 8 to support cloud-based services, including a metro-style mail client that manages multiple e-mail accounts from one location and a photo-sharing application that manages photos stored on multiple devices.