Microsoft today showed off a developer-focused preview of Windows 8, the successor to Windows 7, at its BUILD conference in Anaheim near Los Angeles.
Microsoft president of the Windows and Windows Live Division Steven Sinofsky said, “Everything that runs on Windows 7 runs on Windows 8, but there’ll be a new range of capabilities, scenarios and form factors.
"Tablets, laptops, desktops, all the way to high-end servers with hundreds of processors can run Windows 8 [as virtual desktops].”
The major new feature in Windows 8 is the Metro-style user interface (UI) that has many similarities with the UI in the Windows Phone 7, where each application is represented as a tile, called a "live tile".
Microsoft partner director of program management, Windows Experience, Jensen Harris said, “The idea is you’re always up to date with what’s going on – you’re not constantly drilling into programs [to update the application data].”
This screen shot of Windows 8 gives an idea of how this will work in practice.
These live tile applications are also set up to communicate with each other, using "contracts".
For example, the "share" contract can be set up between applications to allow users to share data automatically between those two applications.
Using the share contract, users can set up tiles to automatically share Facebook data or Twitter feeds with the Windows 8 social networking application Socialite, so that data from Facebook or Twitter is continually updated.
As well as sharing data locally, devices with Windows 8 running on them automatically synchronise content from any cloud services – like Windows Live – that users have accounts on, like email, calendar and contacts information.
Windows 8 will have a feature called Secure Boot to check security certificates.
"This is an option allowing Winodws 8 to check the components of the system, like whether storage devices have the correct certificate stored in the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI)," said partner director of program management for Windows, Gabriel Aul.
"Since Windows 8 can also boot from USB devices, Secure Boot can also check that only certified USB sticks can boot Windows 8," added Aul.
Microsoft will expand its Windows Defender application, which runs on its desktop operating systems and checks for anti-spyware, to give it full anti-virus capabilities.
Microsoft will also allow developers to sell any applications developed for Windows 8 through an application store that will launch when Windows 8 launches.
Sinofsky also confirmed that Windows 8 will support x86 hardware and ARM-based chipsets, although Sinofsky admitted that ARM hardware running Windows 8 will only run applications developed for Windows 8 and not applications originally developed for Windows 7.