Feeds

Windows 8: First contact with Microsoft Touch

Strong enough to ARMwrestle Android and iOS?

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Metro Charms

Although Metro apps run full screen, with the right gesture you can swipe another app into view and then dock it, giving you two apps open together, with one occupying around 75 per cent of the screen.

One of the Metro tiles is called Desktop. Tap this one, and presto, you are back in the familiar Windows user interface, though this is as frustrating as ever if you try to run apps using touch alone. Our review sample came with Bluetooth keyboard, a dock and a stylus, and using these in combination made it work pretty much like a Windows 7 PC. Tap Start though, and you are back in the Metro world.

Windows 8 Control Panel

The Control Panel: an example of a touch-friendly Metro app just beware "More Settings"

Another key feature is called Charms. This is a menu of five icons which appears if you swipe the right edge of the screen. There are Charms for Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. From a user perspective, the Charms give a standard means of performing certain tasks. For example, select Share when in a picture app, and you can share your picture via any app that knows how to share pictures, such as Flickr or Facebook. Under the covers, this is done by a mechanism called Contracts, which apps implement either as providers or consumers.

While the Metro-style interface works well on the developer preview, it is hard to get the full flavour of it, since standard apps that were demonstrated to the press, including the email client, calendar and contacts are missing. Nevertheless, the Metro system is well optimised for touch and enjoyable to use.

Similarly, a new Windows Store was shown to the press but is not present in the review sample. Since BUILD is a developer conference, Microsoft is emphasising the speed and ease of use of the app submission process, which should take no more than 24 hours. Details of how the store will work are sketchy, but the company did let slip that only Metro apps will be allowed for ARM Windows, and that the Store will be the only way to install apps on ARM. This is significant, since it implies that Windows 8 on ARM will be an iPad-style locked-down platform.

Displaying apps side-by-side in Windows 8

Double vision: You can display two apps side by side in Windows 8

ARM Windows will still have the old Windows desktop alongside Metro, but it seems Microsoft intends it to be more a Metro platform than a hybrid, whereas Windows 8 on Intel is definitely a hybrid.

It is easy to see why Microsoft is giving Windows 8 a split personality, but it does introduce inconsistency into the platform that may damage its appeal. On the other hand, the positive spin is that you get the best of both worlds: touch-friendly apps for tablet but full Windows when you need it. A critical factor is whether Metro apps will cover enough features so that tablet users will rarely need to venture into the desktop. Without this vital element, Windows 8 on a tablet will be annoying to use.

Windows 8 is a bold, risky move from Microsoft. Energy that could have gone into further refining Windows has gone instead into a new platform that will run alongside the old. While Metro looks good, it will not be easy for Microsoft to establish it, given the dominance of iPad and the strength of Android in the tablet market. ®

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
DARPA-derived secure microkernel goes open source tomorrow
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.