Monthly Archives: September 2011

Windows 8 adds touch target “locking”

At the “Designing Metro style apps that are touch-optimized” session at BUILD 2011, Kay Hofmeester and Jan-Kristian Markiewicz revealed an extremely subtle improvement to touch in Windows 8, among many. It turns out there’s actually some built-in error correction for touch targets.

The image above shows an internal tool that indicates the feature in practice. As the actual touch point of the finger is indicated by the small circle that’s slightly away from the border of the Aero window. The larger oval represents a “touch area” that Windows 8 actually analyzes for touchable elements.

In this particular example, Windows has actually locked on to the corner of the application windows which is what is required to resize the window even if the finger touch point is not actually over it.

As someone who’s experienced a fair share of frustration with touch in previous versions of Windows, this is a welcomed addition to the constantly improving Windows bag of tricks for touch. Although it’s unclear if this improvement applies to the new Start menu and Metro-style applications, it will certainly relieve some frustration of using the traditional desktop with touch.

Connectivity improvements in Windows 8: USB3, Bluetooth LE, WiFi Direct, NFC, NIC filtering

As the BUILD conference represents a combination of formerly separate software and hardware events, Microsoft has many sessions dedicated to the design of hardware for Windows 8 devices. In the first of these sessions, Dennis Flanagan provided an overview of the hardware improvements in Windows 8 including some interesting connectivity additions and improvements.

As most people would have seen on the B8 blog, USB 3 enables much more performant file transfer operations. On top of this, Windows 8 will also take advantage of newer power profiles that exist in the USB 3.0 specification to enable lower power usage with USB 3.0 enabled devices.

Windows 8 also enables connecting to peripherals that aren’t already mainstream. By adding support for Bluetooth Low Energy, Microsoft anticipates a range of new low-powered interactive devices such as medical monitors with just watch batteries to connect and transfer data with Windows 8.

To extend existing technologies, WiFi Direct is a new standard that enables devices to easily create a peer-to-peer connection without a network. Windows 8 adds support for these connections to exchange data with higher bandwidth requirements than Bluetooth. Windows 8’s PlayTo will also be able to use WiFi Direct to stream media and videos to players like TVs.

Finally, Windows 8 also has built-in support for Near Field Communication to enable instant device-to-tag and device-to-device communications. As demoed in the keynote, Windows 8 has the ability to launch web links and applications by simply tapping a NFC-card. What wasn’t demonstrated will also be the ability to share URLs, photos, applications and games between Windows 8 devices by simply bumping them.

On a related note, Microsoft explained networking is one of the biggest culprits of driving PCs to higher energy states than optimal as an increasing number of application require constant network access.

To optimize the balance between power usage and network connectivity, Windows 8 enables a network-connected standby state that filters and collates network requests in a more efficient manner that groups separate requests before passing it onto applications and the system.

Short: Websites can launch Windows 8 applications

I just discovered this interesting feature of Windows 8 that allows websites to connect users with Metro-style applications.

The BUILD conference website uses a currently undocumented meta tag that changes the website’s icon to a button in Internet Explorer. Clicking the button reveals a “Switch to BUILD app” button which seamlessly launches the BUILD app.

The META tags also seem to imply applications have the ability to hard-code their application ID which may match ones that exist in the Windows Store so users without the app installed can be taken to the listing directly. This would make application discovery for website-driven brands (ex. news sites) much easier.

Tour around the BUILD 2011 expo hall

Following the Steve Ballmer’s appearance at the conclusion of the second keynote at Microsoft’s BUILD 2011 conference, the trademark exhibition hall opened up to the public for the first time with vendors and Microsoft booths showing off new products and technologies.

Of note are the booths of AMD, Qualcomm, Intel and Nvidia who each have at least one Windows 8 device showed off inside a glass cube. Many of these devices are prototypes of smaller-sized slates of around 8″. No specifications or models were detailed on any of these devices so it’s assumed most of these are just concepts.

Last but not least, Channel9 Live is sporting a custom version of MetroTwit Show which I’ve been working on. Go check out their live show throughout BUILD.

BUILD 2011 keynote 2 group liveblog

Join Ed Bott, Mary Jo Foley, Kip Kniskern, Rafael Rivera, Paul Thurrott, Tom Warren and I as we liveblog the second keynote of the inaugural Microsoft BUILD 2011 conference where Microsoft is expected to discuss Windows Server 8, the cloud and more.

Short: Windows 8 WinRT capabilities dissected

There’s been lots of buzz around the new application runtime environment of Windows 8, appropriately named the Windows RunTime. Shown during a big picture session of BUILD 2011, the graph above gives a simple but detailed rundown of exactly what capabilities it exposes to developers.

The most interesting aspects to me are the NFC proximity sharing capabilities, “PlayTo” which enables native DLNA streaming for any media source, contracts that encourage greater data portability between applications and SMS which enable an additional communications channel for Windows 8.