At the AllThings D9 event yesterday, Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky has unveiled the new tablet UI for Windows 8 (which is still currently called Windows Next). As people had hoped it’s based on the Windows Phone ‘Metro’ UI which many people have said would translate very well to a tablet.
The new interface has been designed “from the ground up” to work with touch, and it’s very attractive too. There are different sets of virtual keys for different form factors (smartphone anyone?) and different onscreen keyboards too.
You control apps just by swiping them around, for instance you can multitask just by swiping apps to the center of the screen and snap them much in the way you can with Windows 7. Microsoft have introduced what they call “fuzzy hit targeting” to accommodate the fact that fingers are much less precise than a mouse. The goal is to get legacy apps to work much better with touch. This will be a very welcome addition.
Everything works in a way that will be very familiar to Windows Phone users, if you look at the demo video (there’s a link at the end of this article) then you’ll see that apps don’t just appear, but swoop into view. In fact all the desktop items appear and move in a natural, flowing way. Microsoft have brought the same gesture controls they use with Windows Phone so the interface seems to respond to the strength of your touches, prods and swipes.
Internet Explorer is built into the new system and has been designed to run tablet apps full screen, all tablet apps will run in the browser. Microsoft have said this new interface won’t just be limited to tablets either, so convertible laptops and multi-touch desktops will also get the benefit of having it on board. The comparison will inevitably be made with Google’s new ChromeBooks in this regard, though being Windows all apps are stored offline. It may also reignite some complaints about Internet Explorer being central and vital to the new OS. How will other browsers fit into this tablet space? Will they even be able to? My guess is not though, as Microsoft will no doubt say those browsers aren’t designed for touch or tablets and will still be abailable to be used as the primary browser on the desktop if users prefer them.
Sinofsky did confirm a few things that we already know. These include that Windows 8 / Next is being engineered to run on very low power devices. He also said there was no word yet on when the operating system would be available. We would normally expect this to be announced early next year.
All in all this is a very attractive UI and one that’s bound to win fans and followers. Once again Microsoft have gone their own way, though there is a hint of Blackberry’s new tablet in this too. It’s great to finally see Microsoft taking tablets seriously and I am certainly looking forward to testing this on my own tablet PC.
You can check out a video of this new UI in action below.