It’s not just the way you interact with your computer that will change with Windows 8. The way programs are written is also being rethought.
There will be two types of program running on a Windows 8 PC: legacy programs, and updated versions of existing programs. The latter will be written on the same 32bit or 64bit structure as current programs.
Aside from a few navigational tweaks, we don’t expect to see many changes from the sorts of programs we run at present. Microsoft will include an interstitial layer to ensure this is the case.
Although the hardware requirements for Windows 8 will be modest, the only references we’ve found so far relating to how far back you’ll be able to go in terms of software suggest “applications that run on great Windows PCs today”. Windows XP users will almost certainly have to accept that they won’t be able to run programs written for it in Windows 8. Software that runs on Vista or Windows 7 should be fine, however.
Interestingly, as we went to press, we learned of a rumoured early hardware device that will take advantage of both apps designed for touchscreens and legacy programs. The Asus Eee Pad tablet looks set to get a Windows 8 outing in 2012.
Unlike Google with its Android platform, Microsoft decided against tablets running Windows Phone 7. So our expectations of a built-for-tablets touchscreen interface are high. Both Apple iOS and Google Android ‘Honeycomb’ have proved impressive tablet environments and are all the better for having been built for purpose.
Importantly, Microsoft is promising the tablet-like advantages of instant-on devices, but with multitasking too. Your PC will eventually become whichever device you access it from.