We’re continuing coverage from the Microsoft Developer event Build, organised in Anaheim,California. Microsoft gave all members of press a chance to play around with a Samsung tablet running Windows 8 Developer Preview. In addition to giving media a chance to play around with the device, Microsoft went out all the way with Samsung to give all 5000 attendees a device to take home (at the end of the post, we have a video of Microsoft announcing this). While the operating system is a developer preview of Windows 8, it’s understandable that it feels a bit empty and there’s no way to test a wide variety of applications as this is just the announcement for developers to start developing for the operating system.
While Samsung’s device isn’t quite as solid as some other devices on the market, it’s not really fair to focus the review on the hardware. As Windows 8 is able to run on a variety of devices that support it – you’re able to hook yourself up with your choice of a tablet PC that suits your personal preferences.
What I mentioned in my previous post on Windows 8 holds very much true to the Samsung device as well. It boots up fast and doesn’t keep the user waiting. You’re immediately welcomed by the lock screen. Another interesting sidenote here is that Microsoft has made up a new way to login to your system on a touch enabled device. Instead of punching in a PIN-code, you’re able to login with a picture. This means you’ll have to touch certain points and swipe the picture in the right places to be able to enter your system.
Once you’re in – you’re represented with app tiles on your screen. The menu view is very familiar to those who’ve worked with Windows Phone. The menu works both in portrait and landscape modes and the operating system adjusts to the screen size immediately.
One of the first things that attendees were shown in the keynote is the focus on the possibility to personalize your screen the way you want to. You’re able to shuffle the tiles into the order that you’d want to, with simply a small wipe from the top of the tile to the bottom and dragging it to the space you’d want to.
The start screen also works with groups. You can group together different tiles in a way that suits your personal preferences. You’re also able to change the order of these groups. Microsoft also builds on the learned usability from other touch devices in the way that the start screen scrolls horizontally sideways.
As it’s a PC based operating system, users are able to run multiple apps simultaneously. Another neat addition to this is the possibility to run two applications in the same view. One is given a little over 3/4 of the screen while the other is running in the side. All apps, that run on Windows 8 are able to run in these modes as well and the look and feel adjusts automatically to the amount of space the app is given. Below are three images to make this point clearer. The first image is a screenshot from the IE10 browser, followed by two split screens.
As the operating system is essentially the same that you can run on your desktop computer, you’re also able to enter the more traditional Windows -view. When in this view, you’re also able to access your files in the traditional way you’d access them through Windows Explorer for example.
While using touch in the more traditional view might be a bit difficult (think “right click”), you’re also able to connect peripherals to the device, if it supports them. The test device I played with supported a bluetooth keyboard and a mouse that work just as you’d expect them to on a PC. This of course brings impressive possibilities for games for example – you’re able to build an interface that works with touch, but also take advantage of more traditional controllers.
But the focus really in Windows 8 is on the touch interface. When you’re in the menu view, you’re given the full screen real estate for you to play with. Well almost full, as Steven Sinofsky joked in his keynote, the operating system reserves 1 pixel around the screen to enable the different system controls that work with swipe.
One of the key problems Microsoft is also trying to tackle with Windows 8 is the challenge consumers have with multiple devices. When you change settings regarding your user account in one device, it is able to automatically update that to other devices through the Live ID service and the cloud. This is very similar to what Apple is trying to accomplish with its iCloud service. More on this in the upcoming posts.
As mentioned in the overall view to Windows 8 in my previous post, developers are given a huge market to market their apps on as Windows 8 works in the same way on desktop devices and more mobile devices, like the Samsung tablet. Another point to make note of is the amount of work Microsoft putting in to try and lure developers and startups to their ecosystem. In the run up, they’ve also renewed most of the development tools, making it easier to develop apps.
While all this is exciting and should present lots of possibilities for startups and developers eyeing this space – it must be noted that it remains to be seen how well these tablet devices sell. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s approach is probably the most solid approach to try and shake Apple iPad’s position in the markets. In my view, Windows 8 does what Android was set out to do in a lot more streamlined fashion – for both developers and consumers.
Below is a quick video explaining some of the features of the new operating system on the Samsung tablet.
In the upcoming posts, we’ll also be taking a look at the Microsoft App Store and cloud services that are integrated into the new operating system.
Please see our previous post on disclosure of our relationship with Microsoft regarding the coverage of Build.