Microsoft is finally getting serious about multitouch, which users love for its simplicity. The new UI that it showed off at D9 and in the Web video obviously draws a lot of influence from Microsoft’s recent work on Zune and Windows Phone 7. Although Microsoft says this new Windows 8 UI will be used for desktops, laptops, and tablets, the demo is on a 10-inch tablet and it’s pretty clear that this is Microsoft’s answer to the iPad, which has been doggedly eating into the sales of Windows PCs. The UI looks clean and self-evident, and it introduces some nice UI innovations for multitasking that a lot of tablet users will appreciate.
Microsoft has been doing touch interfaces for a long time. The original Windows CE (a.k.a. Windows Mobile) had basic touch. Microsoft Surface has sported advanced multitouch gestures and a multitouch UX. But, Microsoft has allowed Apple, Google, HTC, Samsung, and others to outflank them in winning over the masses to multitouch devices.
After months of speculation and leaks, most of which turned out to be fake, Microsoft finally showed off a preview of Windows 8 at the D9 conference this week. The new OS is a drastic break from previous Windows versions, and the company has learned a lot from the two competitors that most threaten its existence: Apple and Google. What we’ve seen of Windows 8 shows a clear emphasis on touch-capable interfaces and optimization for smaller devices like tablets—a market owned currently by Apple with its iPad and one that Windows 8 targets head-on.
But the Redmond-based software giant steals from its own stable of ideas as well, most dramatically in its use of the Metro, tile-based interface of Windows Phone 7. From Windows 7 comes the ability to snap and resize an app to the side of the screen, à la Aero Snap.
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