Microsoft BUILD Conference Wrap-up: What’s in Windows 8?

In addition to my initial thoughts on Windows 8 highlights, key takeaways from the BUILD Conference included:

For the End User:

Touch experience.

  • Metro Style (tiled UI). No chrome screen. Every pixel is used to show content.
  • Windows Apps – downloadable and installable without IT intervention. Apps are fully functional programs that run in a sandbox environment. Apps can share data.
  • Better performance and faster response.  Fast boot. Boot from a USB drive.
  • Windows 8 requires less memory (~30% less) than Windows 7.
  • The consistent experience between large and small devices.
  • Still backward compatible.
  • Login using Windows Live ID or a local machine account. Live ID creates a cloud-based roaming profile that can help sync multiple devices with settings and data (i.e., files, etc.).

For the Business:

Windows 7 has more than 450 million users and has surpassed the XP user base (Microsoft representatives highlighted this point several times). Microsoft is betting that the Windows 7 user base will quickly upgrade to the latest OS. Once upgraded, the Metro Apps infrastructure and framework provide a business opportunity to reach millions of users. Metro Apps can be downloaded from the Windows Store and are installable as sandbox applications without having to worry about IT, administrators, etc.

For IT:

Hyper-V is now part of Windows 8. ISO and VHD are directly used from Explorer. (Note: There is much more for IT.)

For the Developer:

  • There is a whole new set of tools to help write Metro Style Apps faster. Visual Studio 11, C# 5, .NET 4.5, Team Foundation 11, and Expression Blend 5 are just a few of the new tools introduced during the conference. Windows Apps can be developed in C#, VB/XAML, or JavaScript/HTML5. XAML and HTML5 are used to build the app’s layout, and C# and JavaScript to handle the business logic. Visual Studio 11 provides many templates to develop Windows Apps projects and provides tools to package and deploy (or upload) Windows Apps to the Windows Store.  (Interestingly, there was no mention of SharePoint.)
  • Expression Blend now supports HTML5 and CSS 3.0. Very powerful and enables you to build a stunning UI. (Previously, you could only do Silverlight UI.)
  • TFS 11 on the cloud using Live ID also has an on-premises version with full support for the scrum process.
  • Compiler as a service – APIs to manage compilers’ internal data. Perform copy and paste between C# and VB, and the code is automatically converted to the appropriate syntax. (Note: No support to handle mixing C# and VB files in the same project.)
  • Support for asynchronous processing with async/awaited keywords in C# and promised in JavaScript.
  • IIS8 along with.NET4/4.5 new API to help produce and deliver very fast Web pages. (Minified script, compressed response data, etc.)
  • Use C# types and libraries from JavaScript. (Windows Apps HTML5/JavaScript pages will not run directly in the Web browser.)

More technical:

  • There is a whole new set of APIs under WinRT to facilitate touch experience and Metro Style Apps. .NET 4.5 exposes these new APIs in a very .NET way. Internally, WinRT calls into Windows core and uses COM infrastructure. It also has abstraction/API to support push notifications (WNS) and a new foundation to handle devices.
  • More support for Windows Azure. DirectX 10.1 (no major changes) for UI rendering.

For Hardware:

  • A vast range of hardware is supported.  During the keynotes, speakers had several machines from old to new and from small to large that were running the Windows 8 OS onstage. Support for ARM processors.
  • Graphics are handled by GPU (Hardware acceleration) for a better UI/gaming experience.
  • Disk support is in the thousands of terabytes (it was huge compared to what Windows 7 supports).

The version of Windows 8 shown at the conference was just a preview. The next milestones are beta, RTM, and GA, though no release dates were announced at the conference. The main focus is on quality. There was a huge emphasis on performance, speed, and power consumption. All three are critical for tablet machines.

Some of the especially useful sessions I attended included:

  • A platform for Metro-style apps
  • Future directions for C# and Visual Basic
  • What’s new in .NET Framework 4.5
  • Windows Server 8

Note: The session titles above link directly to the recorded presentations themselves.

There were so many valuable sessions to choose from, but I could only attend a few. To learn more about Windows 8, here are all the recorded sessions from the BUILD Conference.