Microsoft unveil Windows Next Tablet UI

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 interface will run separately to the main Windows desktop, which will still exist, but will use its own apps.  These will need to be written in either HTML5 or Javascript.  This comes as a surprise as many people might have expected the same or similar development languages to Windows Phone to be used.  This would, in theory, make it much simpler to port applications across to the new platform.

grey Microsoft unveil Windows Next Tablet UI

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.

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26 Responses to Microsoft unveil Windows Next Tablet UI

  1. Pictures June 19, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    It has been expected and rumored for some time that Microsoft may use
    the D9 Conference as an opportunity to unveil their new Windows 8 tablet
    user interface. Now a source close to Microsoft has reinforced the rumor by revealing to the Win Rumors website that Microsoft is indeed
    planning to demo its Windows 8 Tablet UI at D9.

  2. Alex Arroyo August 3, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    This is a great OS for tablets.  I love Windows 7 for standard Desktop/Laptop PCs but for a tablet – this OS seems perfect.

    I’m glad I didn’t take the leap into buying a tablet running a silly gadget OS like Android.  This OS looks more powerful and hopefully it offers a Business friendly atmosphere – need it to do actual work not for entertainment.

    When does it come out!  Or when does a tablet running this beauty come out?

  3. Jason August 3, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    I wonder if it’s running on intel i7 quad-core processor…lol  I’ll believe it when an actual product comes out…it’s hard to judge how these things will turn out if the demo is on a big flat screen TV.

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