September 13, 2011, 1:15 PM — Now we know. Microsoft's president for Windows, Steven Sinofsky, today revealed a "reimagined" Windows, which boasts a very different, tile-based user interface called Metro based on Windows Phone that is touch-savvy, runs on ARM processors as well as Intel x86 chips, and yet will also work on traditional keyboard-and-mouse PCs and run anything that runs on Windows 7. The new version, code-named Windows 8, is now in developer preview, with no release date yet set.
Sinofsky said Microsoft redesigned Windows because "things are a whole lot different now than three years ago. ... Touch is a whole new dimension. Mobility is a whole new dimension. ... We want Windows to respond to that." He also said Windows 8 uses just 281MB of RAM, down from 404MB in Windows 7, and that all the new capabilities are native to the core OS, not layered on top of it. That should ease development and aid performance, he said. Microsoft has said Windows 8 will not run on smartphones, which will use Windows Phone 7 instead.
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Like Windows 7, Windows 8 is designed for touchscreen PCs where users gesture on their vertical monitor screens, a contrast to Apple's strategy of restricting gestures to horizontal touch surfaces such as a touchpad. (Non-touchscreen PCs use traditional pointing devices instead.) It also runs on iPad-style tablets.
The new Start screen is no longer just an icon launcher but a series of tiles that can contain live data, application screens, communications screens, and more. When clicked or tapped, the tile opens the content or app in its own window. Apps can interact through common exchange APIs, in what Sinofsky called a "web of apps."