Microsoft's Steve Sinofsky showed off Windows 8 at AllThingsD's conference Wednesday night. It's all flashy and color, with Windows Phone 7-like dynamic homescreen "panels" from its Metro UI which contain updating information available at a glance from the apps they relate to. These work better on tablets than phones since they contain more elegant data. And it's more efficient than Apple's lock-screen UI.
Not that Microsoft wasn't inspired by Apple and its iPad, Sinofsky himself admitted. Windows had lagged far behind the cutting edge of mobile computing and lacked an App Store and has enjoyed learning from Apple's successes and failures in the spaces.
Check out the Windows 8 UI in the video below, particularly the "snap" gesture, which is reminiscent of some aspects of the Courier tablet that Microsoft unfortunately chose to cancel:
Lurking behind the tablet touch-friendly UI, though, is the Windows we've come to, uh, let's say love, yeah. It's still got its tricks and tropes—we're even supposed to be pleased that we can access Excel spreadsheets right in the native program. But that means that all of Windows various failings are there too ... dare we imagine a Blue Screen Of Death on a tablet PC? While Apple completely rethought how users interact with a computer, Microsoft seems to have merely layered a tablet-friendly effect on top of classic Windows—a trick they tried before with Bill Gates' initial push for tablets years ago.
The real innovation is in Windows 8's ability to run on an ARM processor-powered computer. We get it. This is nowhere near as exciting and touch-friendly pretty colors. But at Computex, Microsoft showcased tablets and "smartbooks" that not only run Windows 8 but run it on an ARM processor. Qualcomm, the chip-maker giant that's making a lot of money out of the mobile computing paradigm, has confirmed it's working with MS to get Windows 8 running on its ARM-based chips. Its Snapdragon processors are already working inside many Android-based smartphones and tablets, and it's confirmed that Snapdragon's soon going to be inside 250 more devices.
Though there are issues with Windows 8 on ARM, notably in terms of backwards compatibility, it means MS has severed some of its rigid ties with Intel and no longer needs to rely on x86 chip architecture—bound to Intel's update cycle. More than anything else about Windows 8, it could offer Microsoft a way to quickly get its tablets appearing on store shelves—following an Android-like approach compared to Apple's more controlled sales effort.