Matt Farrington-Smith
14/06/2011 10:48 | By Matt Farrington-Smith, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Preview: Windows 8

What can we expect from Microsoft's next operating system? We take a look at Windows 8.

Preview: Windows 8. Featuring the new Metro UI. Image Microsoft

In 1995, Windows changed the PC. Windows 8 will change everything...

Radical departure

Bold words indeed, but lets get something out in the open from the off. Windows 8 is a reimagining of Windows, from the way it looks (the interface) to the futuristic ability to work on chips.

If you think it looks familiar you'd be right - from this early peek we can see Windows 8 borrows heavily from the "Metro" UI that is currently used throughout Windows Phone 7.

And like Windows Phone 7, Windows 8 is expected (but not 100% confirmed) to incorporate some of these newer features like Xbox LIVE integration and Windows Live ID from the off.

"Xbox LIVE will the pervasive media service across devices": Mike Delman, Vice President of Global Marketing at Interactive Entertainment Business.

Windows 8 will be optimised for touch interfaces. Image Microsoft

Windows 8 will be optimised for touch interfaces

What's more, Windows 8 is being designed with the potential to run on ARM chips - meaning not just your standard PC, laptop and tablet, but an entirely new generation of devices which will consume less power and lead to a longer battery life.

What else can we expect to see from the new operating system?

New features in Windows 8

  • Fast launching of apps from a tile-based Start screen, which replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.

  • Live tiles (as found in Windows Phone 7) with notifications, showing always up-to-date information from your apps.

  • Fluid, natural switching between running apps.

  • Convenient ability to snap and resize an app to the side of the screen, so you can really multitask using the capabilities of Windows.

  • Web-connected and Web-powered apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that have access to the full power of the PC.
  • Fully touch-optimized browsing, with all the power of hardware-accelerated Internet Explorer 10.

Best of both worlds

As with any new operating system, backwards compatibility is always a concern. What does this upgrade mean for your existing software, games and applications?

Hear what Julie Larson-Green, Corporate Vice President of Windows Experience says on the issue:

There is a stronger focus on apps. Image Microsoft

There is a stronger focus on apps

"Although the new user interface is designed and optimized for touch, it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard.

Our approach means no compromises - you get to use whatever kind of device you prefer, with peripherals you choose... The full capabilities of Windows continue to be available to you, including the Windows Explorer and Desktop."

This good news means that users will still be able to use existing Windows software, as well as all-new apps designed for the latest OS.

At a recent Employee Town Hall event at Microsoft HQ, Steve Ballmer was quoted as saying: "You can run new touch apps and existing Windows apps on the same system. You don't need to choose small screen or big screen. We work with a range of screen sizes when you embrace Windows."

A release date for Windows 8 hasn't officially been set.

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