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Steven Sinofsky Live: First Windows 8 Preview

Microsoft president Steven Sinofsky is appearing live tonight at the D9 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Rumor has it he's going to discuss Windows 8 and new tablet PC designs. Follow along as we discover what's revealed: This article will server a placeholder or sorts until the public revelations, which should start around 6:15 pm ET (3:15 pm PT).

5;45 pm: Here's a photo of Steven Sinofsky (on the right) interacting with the folks at All Things D, which puts on the D9 show, earlier today.


6:00 pm: The rumor du jour is that Sinofsky is going to show off a Windows 8 tablet design. This suggests that he'll either show the new tiles-based, Metro-like UI (which would be incredible) or just a technology demo that doesn't actually reveal any Windows 8 UI stuff (which would be less impressive). I had kind of expected him to show a Kinect-like, gesture-based demo previously. But apparently that's not the case.

6:12 pm: Looks like the Sinofsky appearance has been pushed back to 6:50 pm for some reason. Maybe they should have kicked the Groupon kid off the stage a bit earlier. Just saying.

6:39 pm: Some new shots from the CNET live blog show the set up for Sinofsky's demo. This looks a bit like System on a Chip (Soc), not tablet. But I could be wrong.



6:50 pm: OK, the D9 live feed has finally started. Rafael made a cool little utility that lets us get access to the updates more quickly, including photos. :) Yay.

Joel S. has a photo showing off the tiles-based UI and the Windows 8 welcome screen (which Raf and I exclusively revealed in April).

6:55 pm: Steven Sinofsky on stage now! Notes to follow...

(Taken largely from the D9 live blog, which is the only way to follow-along since these guys don't have the class to provide a live stream...)

Walt: How do you feel about not being in the gang of four that’s running the Internet?

Sinofsky: You know I’m watching it and feeling like the guy who’s in the race and not winning it ... nothing that starts as a gang of four ends well.

Walt: You have missed a couple things, your company has missed a couple things that have gone on.

Sinofsky: We definitely didn’t do the iPhone.

Walt: You missed the first wave of super smartphones, consumer tablets, etc. What’s going on? I know you have smart people.

Sinofsky: There are always things we are doing well. You picked two of the things we didn’t do particularly well. We’re not out of the game.

Walt: You don’t think it is a systemic issue?

Sinofsky: I don’t think so. On phones: We aren’t there yet. But we’ll just keep trying. As to Windows, we are going to be showing some things today.

And Ina Fried breaks another NDA (an old CNET classic): The Windows 8 tiles UI...




Blah blah blah ... Microsoft has evolved Windows over the years.

Walt wonders about Windows’ legacy issues. It’s this big bulky thing. But when you flip on your iPad or your Android tablet, these things feel much faster. Why are you sticking with Windows instead of turning to another OS?

Sinofsky: The thing that’s most fascinating about Windows is its evolution. it’s grown up with hardware and at some point it reached a plateau…. and what happened was we were doubling the system level resources… and so we looked really hard at this and we realized we could change the OS without increasing the system requirements.

Sinofsky: This is a big deal. Windows 8 won’t require any more hardware oomph (memory, disk space graphics, etc) than Windows 7. [This is something I exclusively revealed previously, btw. --Paul] Plus, as noted back in January, it will run on both Intel and AMD, as well as ARM-based chips.

Sinofsky: Wait for it… We’re just going to call it a code name. We’re just calling it Windows 8 for now. Had lots of big meetings. Should there be a code-name like Firestorm. [Wow. This is another thing I've been writing about lately. :) --Paul]

Walt: Your code names are always better.

The demo is coming in one minute, we're told...


Sinofsky talks about legacy support.

Walt: You mean like viruses or craplets?

[Totally professional, Walt.]

Sinofsky: Or printing. Solid-state and disk support. As for Windows 8, he said it is a reimagining of Windows, an example of coloring outside the lines. We have an approach that is different” but builds on value of an OS that sells 400 million or so units a year. Laptops, slates, desktops all can run one operating system. A word we used a lot in developing it is ‘modern’

Walt: And every program that runs in Windows 7 will run in Windows 8?

Sinofsky: It’s Windows. Everything just runs.

Julie Larsen-Green comes out for the Windows 8 demo, with a big lucite “bread box” screen–that is a screen with a bunch of hardware.

Larson-Green A lot has happened since Windows 95″–the last major overhaul of the Windows user interface. We wanted to reimagine how you use Windows. Windows 8 starts with a lock screen, similar to a phone, with a clock, upcoming calendar item and notification. [You don't say!  :)]

Swipe up from the bottom and you get a start screen very similar to Windows Phone 7, with similar kinds of Live Tiles.

Definitely Microsoft has designed its own style, she said. Apps have their own tiles. Important: There is one for a Windows Store. Apps using “New Windows” programming are built in HTML and Javascript. Windows 8 runs both those apps and ones written in traditional Windows code.

Newsflash: Microsoft has posted a few Windows 8 materials to its Press Pass site, including a Previewing Windows 8 feature story and a single image (the same one All Things D had previously).

She’s showing a couple apps designed for new Windows–stocks, weather, etc. There’s a set of menus on the right hand side that Kara and Walt want more details on. The buttons are “search,” “share,” “start,” “connect” and “settings,” though she won’t show offer up any details.


“We have a whole developer conference,” Sinofsky said. 

Microsoft plans to share more at its Build conference in mid-September in Anaheim. [So much for WDC. --Paul] Now she is showing Internet Explorer 10, which has been built to run as a “new Windows” app. There is an on-screen keyboard with arrow keys and some other things that have been annoyingly missing from past on-screen keyboards from Microsoft and others.

Demo screen is a 10.6-inch, 720P screen. The keyboard can also be split with keys on each side making it easier to thumb type. As for existing Windows apps, you can open them from the Start screen and they open into a familiar Windows 7 desktop–which looks almost identical to Windows 7.

Walt asks nonsensical question about Office, ignoring.


New-style apps can access all Windows stuff. One new demo app is a Twitter client called Tweet-o-rama that can grab photos using the new interface as opposed to an old-style dialog box.

Ina: Overheard in the D9 cave. “It’s like the Kin.”

[Seriously.You are biased. Shame on you for that. You mean some turd in the "cave" said something idiotic? Shocking.]

Even when old style Windows apps are open, users can swipe the screen to move to different apps and have a new-style and old-style apps run side-by-side. Larson-Green says users can choose how their start screen looks, making icons for whatever they want. Companies can put the things they want their employees to have.

Customized lock screen:


Hundreds of millions of machines will run Windows 8, Larson-Green said.

Walt and Kara are grilling the Windows duo on why not move Office and other apps to the new Windows look so users don’t have to go back and forth between the two new looks.

“It’s just jarring,” Kara said. “It’s a jarring shift.”


Sinofsky and Larsen-Green agree that this is the biggest change since at least Windows 95.

Walt says even bigger.

“It doesn’t look anything like the menus and the icons.”

Walt: And when is it coming out?

Sinofsky: Can I use the earlier answer that it is a defense department secret?

Right now, we are focused on getting the release done. Every two to three years is a good release (Windows 7 was released in October 2009). It won’t be this fall.

If you’re a developer is the there a philosophic difference between touch-centric apps and those that use the mouse, Walt asks.

Larson-Green says the solution is to design for touch and then allow the OS to translate that input from the mouse if necessary.

Sinofsky chimes in, noting that it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. “The mouse and the keyboard aren’t evil. They’re just tools … And they have their uses.”

Sinofsky: “Your finger doesn’t have the resolution to manipulate, say, Photoshop. There are a number of applications that require the greater precision offered by the mouse. … So I think that one of things that’s intriguing is that if you have a Windows tablet and then you plug a keyboard into it it becomes a Windows laptop.”

[Ignoring another series of ridiculous nonsequitors from Walt about AV and system security... Wondering why SS doesn't just lash out at this guy. It's just disrespectful.]

Walt: Will all these new devices start up as fast as a MacBook Air or iPad?

Sinofsky suggests they probably will, but won’t say definitively.


Q & A ....

Q: What about a compatablity layer that allows older Windows apps to run on ARM?

Sinofsky: There won’t be emulation layer. That turns out to be technically really challenging.

Q: Where is Silverlight in all this?

Sinofsky: There’s still a place for Silverlight. The browser that we showed runs Silverlight and it will still run on the desktop.

[Microsoft plans to talk more about Windows on ARM at an event in just a bit at Computex in Taiwan.]

Q: A big part of what those [gang of four] companies have is the data that their harnessing to build a service that gets better as people use them. Microsoft has this data as well, but it doesn’t seem to be using it as much. Shouldn’t Microsoft be integrating all this data into its core services?

Sinofsky: We are. Microsoft’s data assets do inform its core design to some extent.

Q: How is Windows 8 different from TouchSmart? Isn’t this just a layer on top of Windows?

Larsen-Green is adamant. It’s not a layer. It’s Windows. It’s a seamless experience, she adds noting that you can still access the file system and other core systems.

Q: Could an OEM make a tablet in which the user would never see “traditional” Windows?

Larsen-Green: You can’t turn the desktop off. You can choose never to go there… but it’s always there. Likewise, by the way, you can’t really turn off the new Windows. it IS the start screen.

And that's it.

So. Typical All Things D. Even the audience questions were mostly inane. But some good info nonetheless.  Good night! --Paul

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