Microsoft details its Windows 8 live tiles service

By Tom Warren, on 2nd Nov 11 9:05 pm with 14 Comments

Microsoft revealed the inner workings of its Windows 8 live tiles on Wednesday.

The software giant’s notification platform for Windows 8 is one of the key aspects to the new Start Screen. Live, data enabled tiles will suck information from web servers and applications and push out notifications and changes to the Windows 8 Start Screen dynamically. “One thing we have noticed as we are using Windows 8 internally is that the ability to use the Start screen as a unified and highly readable heads up display for line-of-business applications has become a productivity enhancer,” said Microsoft’s Ryan Haveson in a blog post detailing Microsoft’s Windows 8 live tile work on Wednesday. “With the scalability of our new push notifications platform, Windows 8 can deliver this capability with minimal system impact, which is a big improvement over the multitude of mechanisms that exist in Windows today.”

Windows 8′s notifications and live tiles form the replacement of the typical gadgets built into Windows Vista and Windows 7. Microsoft has been working hard to ensure that it can allow hundreds of live tiles and not impact of system performance. The tiles reach beyond badges and text and provide real time information and images. Microsoft has built its Windows Push Notification Service (WNS) on top of the Windows Live Messenger service architecture. “The service part of the notifications platform was built by the same team,” admitted Haveson. “There are not many teams in the world with the expertise and knowledge to be able to build a globally scalable service that can ramp up to such large numbers so quickly,” he added. The Windows Live Messenger service handles 300 million monthly active users, 630 million daily logins and 10 billion daily notifications.

Microsoft has also added metrics to the new Task Manager so end users can track the amount of network bandwidth used by each application. “In general, resource usage for tiles should be relatively low,” says Haveson. Microsoft monitored its service after the Windows 8 developer preview went live at //build in September. In the video, embedded below, you can see just how fast the notifications started spreading across the world as thousands of people started to install Windows 8.

“In Windows 8, we set out to design a notifications platform that would provide at-a-glance information, without all the performance and battery life concerns that face traditional plugin and gadget-based models,” explains Haveson. “Every design decision we made was viewed through the lens of performance and battery life efficiency.” Microsoft says that users won’t have to worry about the impact of performance of installing as many apps as they like. Microsoft will ship a Windows Store application as part of its Windows 8 beta, expected in January. The Store will provide the first true look at a number of new Windows 8 Metro style apps and their notifications and live tiles.

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  • Typhos

    I dont get it ?

    • Shadow 024

      tl;dr Push services for Windows 8 live tiles, task manager enhancements to go with it.

  • Anonymous

    I still feel that Live Tiles are a big gimmick. People will go wow for 5 minutes and never look at them again.

    • Avatar Roku

      I still feel like you have no idea what you’re talking about.

      How can you even use Windows 8 new apps without looking at the Live Tiles? Its not possible. And my experience with WP7 is that your app gets better reviews and more downloads if it has good live tiles. People love live tiles.

    • Anonymous

      @ArrowSmith:disqus – Every morning when i wake up I unlock my phone and look at it for about 5 seconds.. in these 5 seconds I accomplish the following:
      1. I know how bad traffic is accross the bridge and if I should take my time to get ready or not
      — Live tile from TrafficFlow app
      2. I get the weather forecast including radar picture to know if I’m taking my motorcycle or my car
      – Live tile from Weather channel gives you current forecast + flips to show if its currently raining or not
      3. I know the current stock price of all my favorite stocks
      – Live tile from StockAlert
      4. I know if there were any changes on one of my upcoming flights that I should check on later
      – Live tile from AlaskaAir flight tracker
      5. I can tell if I have new facebook notifications waiting
      – Live tile from the “Me” tile
      6. I know how much missed texts, work mail, personal mail and any phone calls I have to check later

      I get all this information in about 5 seconds without opening a single app…. so, personally, I go “wow” every morning ;)

    • Anonymous

      Omg that was an amazing comment
      Couldn’t have said it better

    • Mrxnnn

      pls make turn this into an ad

    • Anonymous

      I am in love with the updating People tiles on my Windows Phone, so it’s something like a very useful gimmick.

  • Anonymous

    People will be forced to look at the live tiles since they also double as icons for the applications.

  • AlokC

    The Live Tiles / Notification Services will enable the developers to build apps and web services that plug into Windows thereby providing fantastic real-time status, making it one of the best dashboards for day-to-day life!

    On a different note, one thing struck me (Disclaimer: I have been a MS Messenger / Windows Messenger / Live Messenger user for more than a decade) — the number of Live Messenger users is 300M active users!  Doesn’t that make the Skype purchase look a bit odd, though I feel there is a lot of potential in Skype integration with all the MS products.  Wondering if it’s important mainly for the cross-platform reach of Skype…

    • McAkins Online

      Skype has one thing ahead of Windows Live Messenger: Peer2Peer. This is the strength of Skype. MS has to carry the load and bear the cost of data usage of WLM, whereas for Skype, every client participate in carrying the bandwidth load. That is why it is essential for Skype to maintain its “Free” feature, the more people use it, the more bandwidth they have to spare. So Skype can afford to transmit your Audio in HQ, and you can stream Video in HD, because everyone is carrying the load.

      MS is about to burst out with Audio/Video communication unified platform. That Kinect communication feature is just but the beginning. Facetime will look like a child’s play when Windows 8 is released. To host the world, you need the world to carry the bandwidth load.

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  • Mark Richey

    Far better than a static icon that MIGHT show an accurate number for notifications or updates. Some are worthless to know, but I foudn the one that is supposed to show temp on my iPhone sometimes must be opened to register the current accurate temp, not the last temp when the app was open.

    Can’t wait for the tiles…Hurry up Softbank…get off the dime or you will eventually be left behind.

  • Blackatana

    Video not working here.