This morning kicked off day one of the Microsoft Build Windows conference where developers got the first preview of building apps on Windows 8. It's been an interesting few months leading up to the conference as many people were speculating everything that they could get someone to believe. A few weeks back though facts started to come out via the Windows 8 Blog - you can find it here. The keynote and the session videos will be up on the conference site for free so even if you didn't make it you can find them here. I have no intent to repeat everything you can read in the press release here, so I will only highlight a few key thoughts.
A few random thoughts to get started…
- Every thing that runs on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8
- Even memory usage will be less. Windows 8, is even more optimized than Windows 7 for example a netbook running windows 7 used 404 mb of memory. That same netbook runs with just 281 mb in Windows 8.
- Look for small things that are new for example Picture password - allows picking points on picture or sliding across in gesture to login. Simple Pin support also appears to be in.
- Choose how you want to interact, mouse, keyboard touch, all work, touch clearly being thought of as a first class way of interacting. In fact I heard in one session - "If the monitor doesn't support touch it's broken". I personally think this will happen faster on the slate/tablets and slower on the desktop as there is a lot of existing desktops with non touch devices. That said, touch clearly adds some interesting interactions that are possible and that should push the pace desktops move to touch capable displays faster.
- Metro style, you know that style from the Windows Phone, is now going to be a consistent experience across the phone, slate and desktop, but with obvious tweaks to fit the form factor.
- Best Steve Sinofsky quote of the day "I don't think anything is better than a Chrome free browsing experience" - and I don't think he really was talking about the chrome around the browser (think Google Chrome if you don't get it...).
- If you used to use your PC startup time to get coffee, you will have to find another excuse because boot time is going to just keep getting faster
Probably one of the most interesting thing I saw during the keynote was how applications could connect to another application. This isn't a new concept, after all copy/paste has been used for years to move data from one application to another. For example, you copy an address from an e-mail and paste it to the map application to get directions. In Windows Phone if you take a picture you might share it on Facebook, e-mail it away all via a Share type link. Windows 8 Metro style applications will now formalize this in what they are referring to as "Charms" (I'm guessing Charms as it's name won't make it past marketing by release) But the idea is an application can publish itself as a source and/or a target. Sources provide data that applications use, and targets indicate they can accept that same type of data. Contracts are used to perform the match making. For example, an Image application might publish as a source a picture and if I wrote a Smug Mug application it could be the Target and would show up on the list Charms because it accepts pictures. Search is another great example of where this might apply but you can think of a number of business scenarios where this is useful as well. By connecting applications it makes for a more consistent user experience and in a lot of ways can reduce the amount code you have to do for common application features. It is also important because it lets the user interact directly with other applications without leaving the existing application. For people building Charms (targets) it's an easy way to extend windows and other applications, ones that might not even be known at the time the Charm was created.
Windows App Store
One thing the mobile developers understand is the idea that a app store is an easy way to get people to buy applications. The idea someone can find it, click buy, install it and go makes it a low friction way to get people into your application. Windows 8 will have an app store integrated in that will allow metro style applications (those built in XAML, HTML5) to be first class citizens. The app store will also allow legacy applications(you know those non metro style applications) to be in there with a link to the companies web site. For the metro style apps, you pick a price, you decide if you want a trial, you go through the marketplace process and then the application is ready to buy. It looks similar to the Windows Phone process. To me this opens up a new opportunity to build small applications that people will pay a few $ for and anyone, not just huge ISVs will have the ability to have an application take off if people find it interesting.
I'm here at build with 5000 friends, in fact I've been impressed how packed the keynote and all the days sessions have been. It's now early afternoon, and there's a lot of excitement floating around. The fact that each attendee is getting a slate running a developer preview of Windows 8 and all the tools later today I'm sure doesn't hurt. Look for more on that once we get them later today and I get a chance to kick the tires.