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Microsoft Previews Windows 8, Strikingly Similar to Windows Phone 7
June 1, 2011 05:13 PM

A lot of technology news has been piping out of the All Things Digital D9 conference in California recently and today is no exception. First, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo confirmed photo-sharing coming to Twitter. Now, we are all getting the very first glimpse of Windows 8. The photo above is the brand new Start menu in the next iteration of Windows. As you can see, it is completely different from ever before — yet it somehow looks familiar. It is heavily inspired by Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s latest smart phone operating system. The mobile OS is notable for its unique live tiles UI, which updates with content from the internet personalized by the user.

Windows 8 features those same live tiles in the Start menu. It even starts with a lock screen and the ability to quickly glance at notifications. By the way, see that Store tile? Consider the Windows app store confirmed. Never before has the operating system been integrated with the web in such a way. Plus, the screenshot makes clear that they each tile is very large. Could Microsoft be making a major switch to touch control in Windows 8 as opposed to a mouse or track pad?

Here is where things get really interesting. Windows 8 can run all the programs that Windows 7 currently runs. It also has the same hardware requirements as Windows 7. This is huge for enterprises interested in making the leap to the latest OS — especially for those still stuck on Windows XP. There is no need to upgrade any programs or any hardware. It just works.

Developers can write new, optimized programs for Windows 8 entirely in HTML and JavaScript. They open up right within the new experience. Existing Windows 7 programs launch in somewhat of a virtual desktop environment. Microsoft already has a feature similar to this called Windows XP Mode, which loads a virtual PC that looks exactly like the outdated version of Windows and can run any apps not compatible with Windows 7 or even Vista.

This is clearly a huge change for the Windows operating system. Users may not need to upgrade anything, but the probable learning curve could cause some issues of its own. That said, it looks like Microsoft has done a fantastic job keeping up with the times while remaining completely original. They also unified the desktop and mobile experience very nicely. The company says we will hear more about Windows 8 this fall.

Links: Windows 8 Preview at D9

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