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Windows 8 uncovered: a deep dive into Windows 8

UI, native apps, Windows 8 and hardware, and Windows 8 in the enterprise

Microsoft today offered an in-depth look at Windows 8 today. Here's an overview of the features of Windows 8.

Windows 8: native apps and the Windows Store

Ted Dworking, Partner Director of Program Management for the Windows Store team took to the stage to talk about apps and the Windows Store. He said that right out of the box Windows 8 contained the essentials for communication, content and entertainment, each app with native cloud support and connected to services that matter to you - including Facebook, Twitter and - intriguingly - third-party webmail providers.

Describing the Windows Store, Dworkin said it would be 'Front and centre on the start screen, and included in every version of Windows 8'. He said Microsoft's 'ambition is to create the single greatest economic opportunity for developers, ever', and that it would do so by creating a store with a massive audience, and good economic terms. To that end app developers can enjoy a 70 percent revenue share for apps that they create - a figure that goes up to 80 percent if they make $25,000.

Showing off the Windows Store interface he said it was designed on the Metro design principle, to be a 'totally scalable' store with heuristically populated lists of apps, app categories, and the smalled possible gap between an apps listing, and the user downloading that app

Displaying an app page on the Store, he said that each page would show off info on the app's capabilites, a marketing descriptionan and an age rating. He said that every app would be reviewed for appropriateness and technical issues, and stressed that the purchasing process had to be made as simple as possible.

Native apps include Mail, Calender, People, Messaging and Photo. Each enjoys native OS cloud support via Skydrive. Each page of the Mail app, Dworkin said, contains only the minmium, most important commands, although others can be found by swiping to the bottom of the page. So the main page of the Mail app contains the commands for new mail, reply and trash, for instance.

Dworkin showed off the unified inbox, adn demonstrated a simple two-step process to add a new account, from a third party service such as Gmail. In this case native cloud support means that attachments can be saved and viewed from SkyDrive, and you can send attachments via SkyDrive, so that the receiver can view a file from their own SkyDrive account without having to download it.

Using the Calendar app you can swipe from month to month, or select day, or week views. theday view is split so you can see today and tomorrow. As with other apps, settings can be accessed via swiping in from the side, and you can slide in and out further information, such as birthdays of friends sourced from social media, or work appointments from your business calendar.

Dworkin described the People app as a 'digital rolodex'. It includes all your contacts from any number of apps, including social networks and email accounts. The relationship to you, means of contacting them, and most recent contacts are shown within the app. You can choose to connect via any social tile, pin individuals to start screen, and find them via search. Using the Messaging app you can start a conversation using whatever system of messaging or email that you utilise to commune with that contact.

The Photos app contains local images from your Pictures library, images in your SkyDrive folder, and then those from other services such as Facebook and Flickr. You can download the SkyDrive app to another local machine, and access all the photos on there from any other Windows 8 system.

The Music app contains 16 million songs, which you can preview and buy. Any songs you buy or store locally can be played out via an Xbox. The Video app also has the built-in ability to project to Xbox, and allows you to buy or rent movies, as well as view previews. Again, you can store and view local files, including home movies. The Game market placelet's you purchase games, and includes a notification of if any of your friends have played a title  - you can message them to find out if it is any good. You can demo on the PC any Xbox game available, and view your own Xbox Live avatar, as well as those of friends.

Windows 8

Bing apps use Metro style design and customisation to present a world of data, Dworkin said, and include News, Finance and Maps. With rich images on news sections, News app settings allows you change language, and the 'My news' option lets you select sources, subjects, and lets you pin sources to your Start page. Bing Finance lets you check stock prices etc, and set up a watch list of individual stocks and markets. These can all be pinned to your Start screen, as can world markets, currancy, and so on. Bing Maps pinpoints exactly where you are, and shows real-time traffic data.

Windows 8: the experience

Principal Program Manager of the Windows 8 User Experience Team Chaitanya Sareen said that Windows 8 is a reimagining of Windows 8 from the chipset to the experience. He said that computing, from the web to the Windows 8 UI, is better without what he called 'Chrome'. Not literally a dig at rival Google's browser and OS (although we suspect the term is no coincidence), Chrome in Microsoft parlance means extraneous icons, input fields, add-ons and buttons. Windows 8, he said is 'fast and fluid', 'connected and alive' and all about 'consumption and creation'.

More importantly, he said that Windows 8 was were true convergence happens: 'why bring two devices when you can bring only one [Windows 8 tablet]?' he asked.

NEXT: WIndows 8 Start screen

For more on the changes in Windows 8 and how to use them visit Windows 8 Advisor. For detailed advice on installing Windows 8 Release Preview, read our article: How to install Windows 8.

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