What will Windows 8 run?

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. 
The other sort of program you’ll find on a Windows 8 PC or laptop, however, takes a very different approach. In common with the programs being written for the web, these will use either JavaScript or HTML5 as their basis. “CSS, HTML5 and JavaScript are the most widely understood programming languages and the backbone of the internet,” says Angiulo.
You’ll be able to have both desktop Windows applications and ones written in JavaScript running and visible onscreen at once. A shrunken Start button will act as a switch between the two modes should you prefer to use your Windows 8 PC in one rather than the other. 
What will Windows 8 run?
Windows 8 will offer Internet Explorer 10.0, which will use HTML5

Instant access to your world 

From here on, the new OS is a real departure from the product we currently think of as Windows. It is “perhaps better thought of as a mashup of Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7”, says Joanna Stern, Microsoft’s in-house journalist. Tablet PCs may become the default form factor, and their touchscreens require a different approach.
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.

Windows 8 in action

As we report in our initial look at Windows 8, multitasking is easy on the desktop but difficult on smartphones and tablets. The iPad is able to keep processes open in the background while you work in other applications, but you can view only one app at once. Android, meanwhile, supports several widget-level apps at once, but won’t let you simultaneously browse the web, read an email and type a document, say. 
Windows 8 will allow you to do just that, and it will build on the mobility features - including near-instant resumption from sleep - that it introduced with Windows 7. Given the general shift towards more mobile use, thinner, lighter devices and longer battery life will continue to be an important selling point. 
Required specifications are no more than those of a decent Windows 7 PC, says Microsoft, but that loose description could be anything from a modest dual-core system to a quad-core machine that can edit HD video.
A demonstration at Computex showed how live tiles could be moved around the screen without interruption to an HD video currently playing, then snapped into place, leaving room for a second tile to occupy the rest of the screen space. It’s similar to Windows 7’s Snap To feature.
Thus far, there’s been no talk of smooth interfaces and 3D effects. Microsoft doesn’t seem to be gilding a functional version of Windows with some Aero-style frippery. The desktop displays a series of live tiles. Updates of every type appear here, from tweets and emails to RSS feeds. This sounds hectic, but the opposite is true. When you’re actively using the PC, “the screen is free of clutter, with every pixel used to show whatever you’re viewing”, says Angiulo. 
There’s also a side-scrolling menu of tiles. A similar feature is found in Windows Phone 7, where it’s instead presented vertically. 
Drag from the left side of the screen to view live tiles of currently running apps. To switch between them you must drag across each to get to the one you want to use. 
Seemingly less intuitive is the need to bring up a Jump List from the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen. This lets you access specific controls and settings. When not in use, each of these stripped-down menus disappears from view.
Windows 8 in action
Windows 8 will be able to run multiple applications at once. Impressively, it will also be able to run uninterrupted HD video as its display pane is moved around the screen

Start right

There will be no more royalties for The Rolling Stones, since Windows’ Start Menu will all but disappear. The rock band’s ‘Start Me Up’ was used to intro Windows 95 but, unlike Mick Jagger et al, the Windows Start Menu is just about ready for retirement.
In Windows 8 the Start Menu will be a tiny circle, with its role in essence reduced to switching between modes. Search, which features heavily in Windows 7’s Start Menu, is freed up to appear anywhere you like.
To access your Windows 8 account you’ll need a password and login. You’ll then see a personalised desktop with all your contacts, friend lists and apps. The continued move ‘to the cloud’ suggests that anything you’ve downloaded and for which you have an online account will also appear here.
For everyday navigation, you’ll find yourself scrolling through menus or using the Jump Lists introduced in Windows 7. You can pin items to the desktop, while the Snap To feature will minimise screen clutter. 
Some of these features sound like the resource- and screen-hogging widgets that came preinstalled with Vista, but times have moved on. Microsoft has been taking usability cues from the successful implementation of user-centric screens on smartphones.