Microsoft held their //build/windows Conference this week and there was plenty of stuff to keep everyone entertained. While the event was intended to be a multi-day developer gathering in Anaheim, California, it turned into a display of cool new technology from multiple hardware partners and reveals of amazing new Microsoft technologies.
Whether you are excited about tablets or cars, there was a wide range of conversations that came out of the event, but the thing on everyone's mind was Windows 8. Ever since we got a peek at D9, everyone has wanted to see a big demonstration and many of us have wanted to get our hands on the new interface. At //build we got both of our wishes.
To start off, Microsoft gave us some high-level tutorials on how the OS works and what they have improved on in the Metro UI from the current Windows Phone 7 and the Xbox 360 Dashboard, plus how the computer can operate without the standard Windows UI. For starters, the classic desktop is still available, but through a live tile on the Start screen. This gives you the ability to still interact with applications that could never really work as a Metro app, for example Photoshop or Visual Studio.
How will Metro work for a full computer and how can you try it out? Hit the break to find out.
As for interacting with Metro on a full-scale interface, it is incredibly intuitive. The Windows 8 implementation of the new unified Microsoft user experience is the natural evolution of the existing concept, but built for the ability to use touch or a mouse, with or without a physical keyboard. I wouldn't recommend interacting with the classic desktop without a keyboard and mouse, however.
The development tools available for Win8 are upgraded, as well. A special version of Expression Blend and Visual Studio have been created, specifically intended for Metro apps. The development process is incredibly simple; very similar to developing for Windows Phone 7. People who have no experience developing Windows apps but know mobile will be able to jump right in and get involved in the Metro world.
It doesn't end there, though. As part of the conference, Microsoft released a Developer Preview version of Windows 8, and it's free. While you do not need to be a registered Microsoft developer partner to download the preview, there are a few things you do need to know. First, it will not run forever. At some point before the official release of Windows 8, the preview will self destruct, so don't install it expecting it to be your Vista or Win7 replacement - it isn't. You should install it on a secondary machine or in a virtual machine (we are using a VMWare box here). Second, not everything is available. For example, the new Windows Store is not yet active.
What is active, however, are A LOT of included apps. Many of the demo apps that come with the preview were developed by Microsoft interns with little to no help from the actual development team. If you ever needed proof of the simplicity of the platform, I think interns are that proof.
In addition to the software, Microsoft partners also showed off Win8 hardware, and there were shapes and sizes you might not have expected. In addition to the predicted tablet form factor, we also saw netbooks, laptops and desktops all running the new OS.
Clearly Microsoft is expecting everyone to embrace the new Metro Experience. Have you bought in to the innovative new way to interact with the computer or is Microsoft too late to the party? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you have tried Windows 8 out for yourself, let us know that, too!