ANAHEIM: Windows 8 looks set to be the most radical overhaul of Microsoft's platform yet, with a greater emphasis on touch input, close integration with cloud-based services, and new ways for applications to share capabilities with each other.
Microsoft used its Build developer conference to provide the most detailed picture yet of what to expect in the next version of Windows.
The operating system is being designed to scale from the smallest tablets to standard PCs, right up to servers with hundreds of processors, according to Steven Sinofsky, vice president of Microsoft's Windows division.
Among the key features is a new user interface that borrows heavily from Windows Phone 7, while a new programming model allows developers to build applications that will run across ARM and x86 versions of Windows 8.
The new tile-based user interface, known as Metro, has been shown before, but Microsoft confirmed that this will be the standard interface for Windows 8, while existing applications will run in an optional Windows 7-style desktop environment.
Metro borrows the live tiles approach from Windows Phone, so the new Windows 8 start screen is "more than just a launcher", according to Jensen Harris, director of programme management for Windows Experience.
"Every tile represents an app that is alive with activity, representing RSS feeds and other updates, so you are always up to date with what's going on. And there's no need to open an app to see you have new emails or messages," he said.
The new interface works equally well with touch input, stylus input or traditional keyboard and mouse, according to Microsoft.
"Touch will be ubiquitous in Windows 8, but doesn't mean the keyboard and mouse will go away," said Harris.
Windows 8 also gives applications a new way to interact more closely, so that capabilities available in one can be accessed by others.
This "share contract", as Microsoft calls it, might allow an email app to offer the option to send pictures from Flickr via a single click, for example.
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