Windows 8: What’s New?

September 19, 2011

no comments

Got back from Build conference. Since I expect many people will ask me "So, what’s new?" and since the answer is rather complex, I figured I should try to write a post about it, so here goes…



General Information

  • Windows 7 sold (i.e. legal copies) over 450,000,000 copies since it was released.
  • Windows 7 bypassed Windows XP in world usage.
  • Windows 8 will be used primary for tablets and other touch-based devices.
  • Windows 8 can run on Intel-based processors or ARM-based processors.
  • Windows 8 consumes fewer resources than Windows 7 and has the same hardware requirements.
  • Windows 8 has a new user interface, used primarily with touch screens but supports fallback to mouse and keyboard, applications that uses the new user interface are called "Metro-style applications".
  • All participants of the Build conference received a Samsung tablet with a preview release of Windows 8, that has the following spec:
    • Intel Core i5
    • 4GB DDR3
    • 64GB SSD
    • 11.6" diagonal, 1366×768 display
    • Included dock and USB keyboard
  • Windows 8 Developer Preview version can be downloaded here.


Windows 8 for Developers

  • There is a new way to expose Windows API named Windows Runtime or WinRT.
    • WinRT is completely native and is built above COM with the addition of inheritance, generics, delegates and more. Basically WinRT = Modern COM.
    • WinRT doesn’t cover all previous Win32 APIs.
    • WinRT has can be used from C++, C#, VB.NET and JavaScript using language projections which are auto-generated from the WinRT APIs and provide a natural and familiar experience for developers of the language.
    • WinRT API follow a guideline that says that every API which might take more than 50ms should be async. As a result a lot of WinRT APIs are async.



  • WinRT includes a native UI framework, XAML-based, for building Metro-style applications.
  • The XAML of the new WinRT UI framework resembles Silverlight XAML rather than WPF XAML.
  • Metro-style applications can be built in the following technologies:
    • C++ and XAML
    • C# and XAML
    • VB.NET and XAML
    • JavaScript and HTML/CSS
  • A Metro-style application can collaborate with another Metro-style application without knowing him at all using several contracts that Windows 8 defines, e.g. share source contract and share target contract.
  • Metro-style applications should define the capabilities they use, similar to Windows Phone applications. At runtime these declarations are enforced.
  • C++ has new extensions that allows easy integration with WinRT, these extensions follow a syntax similar to C++/CLI, only they are completely native.
  • The next version of .NET Framework is 4.5, nothing too exciting there.


IDE Improvements

  • There is a preview version Visual Studio 11 and Expression Blend 5.
  • New in Visual Studio 11:
    • Added new project templates for developing Metro-style applications in all the supported languages.
    • Productivity Power Tools incorporated into Visual Studio 11.
    • New features for agile development including: Sprint Planning, Managing Task Board, Performing Code Reviews.
    • XAML properties editor is the same as the corresponding Blend editor.
    • Deploy to the new Windows App Store directly from Visual Studio 11.
    • Added tools for viewing and basic editing 3D models, images, textures and also for debugging DirectX based output.
    • Added feature that allows searching for code duplication based on semantic tree instead of simple text search.
  • New in Expression Blend 5:
    • Designing Metro-style HTML / CSS applications.
  • TFS will be available as a service on the cloud.


Some General Insights:

  • C++ is very much alive! I’ve been to an excellent lecture on modern C++ (the portable one, not MS specific), by Herb Sutter. Wow. So many C++ developers, the room was packed!
  • Future of Silverlight is not clear. There will be version 5 but there’s no information about what’s next.

Since all the videos are now available on the conference site, I strongly suggest you see the ones that are interesting for you. Note that there quite a lot.

That’s it for now,
Arik Poznanski.

kick it on Shout it
Add comment
facebook linkedin twitter email

Leave a Reply