Magic 8 ballLast week, Microsoft previewed Windows 8.  We don’t know when it will be released.  Microsoft said in October 2010 that Windows 8 was then roughly two years away.

The central feature previewed is the new “start” screen (shown in the video below), which is displayed when a user logs into Windows that allows the user to run applications specifically designed for Windows 8.  This interface is very much designed with touch screens in mind and at least vaguely resembles Windows Media Center.

New Windows 8 apps have a “widget” interface that displays a small amount of information on the start screen itself and then launch into full screen mode.  Microsoft’s demo said that these apps are written in HTML5 and JavaScript, which could start to get rather limiting to developers.  This begs the question whether it will be possible to consume legacy components. Presumably, at least Silverlight will be available, but only a subset of .NET classes are available in Silverlight, to say nothing of using old C++ COM DLLs.

Don’t be afraid that your pre-Windows 8 applications are going to stop working – the demo does show other applications (notably Excel) running in a separate interface that looks very similar to the existing Windows shell.  Other leaked screenshots seem to suggest that the regular Windows 7 interface – desktop and all – is still available.

What do you think of the Windows 8 preview? Let us know in your comments!

image credit: Rodolfo Clix

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