Hands on with Windows 8′s new Metro experience [video]

By Tom Warren, on 13th Sep 11 4:06 pm with 29 Comments

Windows 8 Start Screen

Microsoft unveils Windows 8 to the world today, a reimagined Windows for the next-generation of devices and hardware.

The new Start Screen and immersive Metro experience are designed to make experiences in Windows 8 “totally personal,” according to Microsoft’s director of Windows experience, Jensen Harris. “We’ve tried to eliminate and reduce modes in the UI,” he said during a special preview event of Windows 8 on Monday. Harris detailed a number of new features to the Windows 8 interface that will allow developers and apps to share content and screens with each other. Microsoft is including a semantic zoom feature in the Start Screen to allow users to zoom right out of the experience and see the whole Start Screen in one page, a useful option for those with a large number of tiles. The software maker has planned this unique interface very well, considering a number of scenarios and ways that end users will interact with it.

The sidebar of the Start Screen experience includes five charms. The charms allow users to access search, share, start button, devices and settings. The charms also include an at a glance look at the network status and power status of a device. Harris describes the experience as “fast and fluid” for end users. At the heart of the entire experience is Microsoft’s web browser. “The most important app we build is Internet Explorer,” admitted Harris as he explained how Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 includes more hardware acceleration, sharper text and is fully multi touch enabled. A swipe from the bottom of Microsoft’s immersive browser experience reveals the address bar and frequently visited and pinned sites. The browser experience is natural, fast and easy to use.

Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8

Microsoft’s search experience in Windows 8 allows app developers to take advantage of the powerful search features baked straight into the new operating system. App developers can use a “search contract” to allow Windows 8 to search within their application natively from the search experience. The user interface allows end users to simply search for a particular phrase and flick through apps to see results. Similarly, a “picking contract” will allow app developers to share their data across the operating system. Harris demonstrated this by picking to share multiple photos from different applications whilst inside the tweet@rama Twitter demo app. The idea of apps working alongside each other is one that Microsoft wants to drive home. “We have a point of view that apps should be able to work together,” says Harris.

If you thought Windows 8 was all touch then you’re wrong. Microsoft is focused on supporting traditional computing methods just the same way as touch. All the features of the Start Screen can be activated using a mouse and keyboard. Right clicking inside the interface brings up the context menu (activated by swiping from the bottom of the screen in the touch world). Microsoft is also building in stronger pen support in Windows 8. “We were innovations in pen,” says Harris before admitting that the trend hasn’t caught on in recent years. “Windows has great pen support” he adds. Microsoft’s recognition API allows handwriting to be recognised throughout apps without the app developer needing to code additional support for it.

Microsoft’s Metro apps extend to the Windows Live platform too. The company is creating Metro style apps for mail, photos, calendar and people. The apps are identical to Windows Phone and include similar features such as threaded messaging and integrated contact points into a single individual. The apps aren’t available in the Windows 8 developer preview but Microsoft demonstrated them on Monday. Think Windows Phone people hub and messaging and they are almost identical. The applications all run on a new platform that allows developers to leverage a new set of Windows Runtime APIs (WinRT). Developers can create Metro applications using C++, C, C#, VB, HTML/CSS and JavaScript. “We want to make sure developers can bring their experience and knowledge to building these applications,” said distinguished Windows engineer Ales Holececk. ”We are putting XAML, HTML and CSS at an equal footing,” he explained. Microsoft is encouraging developers to focus on Metro applications instead of traditional desktop apps that use win32, .NET and Silverlight. The ARM based version of Windows 8 will not support the traditional desktop apps so it’s a big play to shift developers onto a rethought application platform.

Overall, Microsoft’s new user interface is a risky product bet, but one that feels right considering its other product lines. The interface borrows a large amount from its Windows Phone cousin but creates its own use of live tiles and Metro applications. It’s a fresh start to Windows and if it’s coupled with the appropriate hardware then it will do well to penetrate certain markets. It’s a joy to use and immediately creates a very personal experience in the same way that no Windows Phones are alike. The question remains over applications but Microsoft has a loyal development community and a following that will be excited about the company’s announcements this week at BUILD. The message is clear, developers – fire up your copy of visual studio and go create.

  • Anonymous

    nice!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesse-Garcia/100000361221634 Jesse Garcia

    I just pooped my pants. Thanks Tom !

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesse-Garcia/100000361221634 Jesse Garcia

    I just pooped my pants. Thanks Tom !

  • https://profiles.google.com/christopher.gull/ CG

    Bl**dy h*ll! D*mn this looks freaking awesome!

  • https://profiles.google.com/christopher.gull/ CG

    Bl**dy h*ll! D*mn this looks freaking awesome!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeffrey-Syang/507688178 Jeffrey Syang

    i personally think that this is an extremely smart move on microsoft’s part. By taking advantage of their large marketshare in the OS department, they let people get used to the metro interface on computers and tablets and as people use it more and more, they become more tolerable of its interface and may even like it. This will then help people be more receptive to the prospect of using a wp7 phone since the obscure metro interface is what currently turns people away. This may even rocket wp7 phone sales; this is only a hypothesis though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeffrey-Syang/507688178 Jeffrey Syang

    i personally think that this is an extremely smart move on microsoft’s part. By taking advantage of their large marketshare in the OS department, they let people get used to the metro interface on computers and tablets and as people use it more and more, they become more tolerable of its interface and may even like it. This will then help people be more receptive to the prospect of using a wp7 phone since the obscure metro interface is what currently turns people away. This may even rocket wp7 phone sales; this is only a hypothesis though.

  • Anonymous

    Just Wow!!!

  • Anonymous

    Just Wow!!!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like the multitasking switcher, a camera roll like UI with thumbnails would’ve been better… so you wouldn’t have to constantly swipe to get to the app you want and you’d also get an overview of all opened apps.

    • Anonymous

      exactly, if you have plenty of apps open it would make you mad
      in Mango, they have something like a cards for multitasking
      they should make it both cards and this !!!

    • Anonymous

      exactly, if you have plenty of apps open it would make you mad
      in Mango, they have something like a cards for multitasking
      they should make it both cards and this !!!

    • Anonymous

      exactly, if you have plenty of apps open it would make you mad
      in Mango, they have something like a cards for multitasking
      they should make it both cards and this !!!

    • Anonymous

      exactly, if you have plenty of apps open it would make you mad
      in Mango, they have something like a cards for multitasking
      they should make it both cards and this !!!

    • Anonymous

      exactly, if you have plenty of apps open it would make you mad
      in Mango, they have something like a cards for multitasking
      they should make it both cards and this !!!

    • Candid Calum

      You could probably just click the Start button then access the opened app from the tile on the Start Screen. That’s no hassle at all.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like the multitasking switcher, a camera roll like UI with thumbnails would’ve been better… so you wouldn’t have to constantly swipe to get to the app you want and you’d also get an overview of all opened apps.

  • Anonymous

    Amazing! im jealous of you tom! i want one of those tablets. nice videos! hope to see more soon.

  • http://twitter.com/abhi1manyu Abhimanyu Jamwal

    tom a video for boot up time and if that is tge real deal…thanks

  • Vjv87

    Tom, can you change the UI background on the start page.. can you talk more about the personalization options surrounding the UI?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Viki-Maverick/100002523433166 Viki Maverick

    Now that truly is multitouch. The person is using 2 hands for the Pinch to Zoom feature. Lol.

  • http://w1ngnut.myopenid.com/ w1ngnut

    Absolutely Awesome!!! Looking forward to seeing more about customization though.

  • http://twitter.com/jimmyfal Jimmy Fallon

    Still a little tough for me to get used to the solid colors on both the phone and the UI, but it’s a small point really. I too would hope that the multitasking would have a card like interface similar to the phone. I NEVER use the window switcher on Win 7. I don’t want one at a time I want to see ALL the open windows. Anyway, this was an awesome presentation aside from that poor woman in the beginning who is probably great at her job, but really has no business being on stage. You would have thought they would have figured that out the first time around in June. I hope to load the bits on tonight and see if I can work with it as my primary OS like I did with Win 7 pre beta. I almost want to tell every to go buy an Apple so that I can have all this to myself!

    • Anonymous

      download the free application called “Switcher” or Application Switcher.  It’s like Expose on OSX but with more options.  I love it but am still in the habit of hitting alt+tab so I haven’t found it super useful yet.  I have the feeling the more I use it though, the more I’ll become dependant on it: http://www.intowindows.com/switcher-another-fantastic-application-switcher-for-windows-7/

  • Stoffel

    I haven’t read any comments on the OS wide spell checker?!?
    Didn’t Sinofsky mention that too in his Key Note

    • Tom

      What I’d like to know is where the spell-checking developers and curators work.

      Traditionally, the spell-checker people have worked for the Office division.  Is this a sign that the famously dueling Microsoft fiefdoms are finally starting to collaborate?  Sinofsky moved to the Windows division from Office, after all.

      Whereas with Silverlight/XAML, they split up the team and moved the people to Windows Phone and Windows, respectively.

  • Anonymous

    Can you show a video of you switching the Windows 8 tablet between landscape and portrait mode? Is it animated or does the screen go black like Windows 7?

  • http://dinerorapidoysencillo.com/ Ganar dinero por internet

    This will be exactly like Vista. Vista was in between XP and 7. They couldn’t figure it out which was the right way to do the OS. They stuck in between. W8 feels exactly the same way because of this whole Metro-style UI – conventional UI switch. They obviously have some good ideas and they added some features which they should’ve added long time ago. Hopefully final product would be good enough to buy it.Speaking of buying it, Microsoft should really cut the price of the retail price. $200≈ is just too high comparing to other alternatives. I know most of the profits they get from Windows is from companies like Dell and HP but if they can cut the retail price around $100, it’d be really good.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116073748054291541228/posts Techy8789

    This’ll be a disaster among normal consumers on the scale of Vista.  How will they know how it works?  It looks nice, but 99% of people aren’t tech-savvy.