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Sinofsky and a number of Microsoft managers devoted a two-and-a-half hour keynote Tuesday to showing off Windows 8's tile-based user interface, its advanced development capabilities, and its ability to run on a range of ARM- and x86-based devices.
"You can have your choice of world-class development tools and languages," Sinofsky said. He also repeated Microsoft's promise that all applications written for the current-generation Windows 7 will run on Windows 8.
The Windows executive also promised to avoid creating bloated, inefficient code as Microsoft adds new features to Windows. As an example, he demonstrated how Microsoft Task Manager running on Windows 7 on a two-year-old Lenovo laptop used 404 Mbytes of memory while the same software running on Windows 8 on the same machine used only 281 Mbytes. "We are very focused on the fundamentals of Windows 8," he said.
Sinofsky touted Windows 8's touch capabilities that will allow it to run touchscreen-driven tablets as well as traditional PCs that use a keyboard and mouse. "I think touch is going to become a big part of user interaction," he said. "I promise you that once you use touch, when you go back to your laptop you're going to be tapping your screen, getting fingerprints all over it."
He defined the new generation of tablets and smartphones as "not just devices you carry, then use, but devices you use as you carry them."
Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft corporate vice president of Windows program management, demonstrated the Windows 8 interface – including logging on by touching specific points on a photograph rather than typing in a password. She also demonstrated new utilities or "charms" in Windows 8 that developers will use to extend the operating system's capabilities.
Chris Jones, senior vice president of Windows Live, demonstrated Windows 8's ability to work with the Windows Phone operating system and with cloud services such as Microsoft's SkyDrive online document storage and file-sharing service.
Developers will be able to download the Windows 8 developer preview from http://dev.windows.com beginning at 8:00 p.m. PT Tuesday, Sinofsky said. At some point the developer preview will be followed by a beta of Windows 8, a release candidate version, a release to manufacturing version and general availability – but Sinofsky did not attach any dates to those milestones.