Microsoft is pulling out all the stops with Windows 8. For the Redmond-based tech giant, it’s not just another operating system, it’s a complete shift in direction. “We worked hard to build a platform that is fast and fluid,” says Windows 8 engineer Rajeev Nagar, who is part of the core Windows 8 development team.
Since the announcement of Windows 8, a three preview versions have been released to consumers and the developer community. Microsoft’s aim is to “bring along all of our user base through engagement; hence we have rolled out so many versions. The consumer previews has been downloaded many times and there has been great telemetric response to Windows 8,” according to Nagar.
Delivering great content
For the software giant, Windows 8 is a “people focused” OS that focuses on “delivering great content to the user.”
One of the ways Microsoft wants to deliver great content is through various apps available in the Windows 8 app store, although the company feels that users should be able to get those experiences through a browser as well. Windows 8 developers can choose to build and make their apps available in the Windows 8 store or stream an HTML 5 version of the app through Internet Explorer 10.
“We feel that IE 10 is one of the best browsers when it comes to rendering HTML 5 apps. Our goal is to deliver rich content that we want our users to be able to experience which ever way they can — and the developers are able to provide it,” says Nagar.
A personal system
Using a Live ID, users can connect up to five different devices to their Windows 8 account, which should theoretically allow to them to seamlessly move from one device to another. What that means is that you can begin working on a document on one device and finish it off on another connected device.
According to Nagar, “it’s a personal system. Windows 8 and Live propagates all your customisations from one device to all connected devices, making them work as one.”
Logging in is pretty cool. Users can choose from three options on how to log in to their device. There is the normal password logging option, which comes with the nifty “hide key press” to protect the user’s key strokes on touch devices. Then there is pin option, so users can login with a four digit pin. My personal favourite (and what makes this a truly unique OS) is the “picture password”, which allows users to unlock their device by tapping various predefined points on an image of their choosing.
No comprise experience
According to Microsoft, it has worked hard to make sure the Windows 8 experience is a “no comprise experience”. On non-touch devices, most of the gestures work in a drag and drop format. As opposed to live edges on touch-based devices, the corners are live with non-touch devices, which allows users to easily switch between apps.
A cool tool Microsoft has introduced is “snapping”, which gives users the ability to fix an app on the side of their screens while working with other apps.
Another interesting tool the company has introduced, which will be quite handy in emerging markets, is the idea of a “metered network experience”. Windows will be able to detect when people are on metered networks (such as 3G networks) or are using roaming data in foreign countries. It will then reduce the resolutions of movies being streamed or stop updating large files until the user is in a free Wi-Fi area. “This way the OS helps users control network cost,” says Nagar.
In a bid to conserve battery life, apps are suspended when they are not being actively used but can still quietly update in the background. The apps don’t shut down.
Ghosts of Windows Phone 7
Though Microsoft doesn’t seem to be in hurry to admit it, there are plenty similarities between the OS and the Windows Phone experience. The seamless Metro look and feel that Windows Phone users have come to enjoy has been improved upon greatly in Windows 8.
The use of live tiles and the ability to group tiles based on the type of apps helps users to use the system optimally. There are also similarities with the “People” app that was first introduced with Windows Phone.
According to Nagar, Windows Phone 8 will work with the same developer language as Windows, which means developers can easily customise apps for mobile.