Ina Fried

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Microsoft Says Hola to Windows 8 Beta in Barcelona

Aiming to show its mobile chops, Microsoft is using the world’s largest cellphone show to debut a new test version of Windows 8.

The “consumer preview” version will feature a number of advancements over the early developer version released last fall. Perhaps most notably, this version will include the built-in app store that will be part of the next Windows. (Only free apps will be available, Microsoft has said.)

Windows 8 is one of the biggest bets in the company’s history. Aiming to respond to competition from both Macs and iPads, among other factors, Microsoft is making some big changes to its flagship operating system.

In particular, Windows 8 will be available (albeit with some different capabilities and compatibilities) on both ARM and traditional PC processors.

Microsoft has brought over the tiled Metro interface first introduced on Windows Phone (a look first shown at our D9 conference last year) and is introducing an entirely different type of application. In most cases, new-style apps will be distributed only through the Windows app store.

Earlier this month, Microsoft confirmed that Windows on ARM — complete with the next version of Office — should show up on new PCs around the same time as the operating system comes for PCs with chips from Intel and AMD.

However, Office and Windows 8 itself will be the only traditional desktop apps that run in Windows on ARM.

We’ll have live coverage of Microsoft’s Windows 8 event starting around 6 am PT. If you can’t wait to get some Windows 8 news, Microsoft has posted a guide for businesses on some of the corporate-oriented features contained in the new test build.

Earlier:

3:12 pm: Things haven’t kicked off. You haven’t missed anything. Just got situated.

3:12 pm: The event is at a swank venue overlooking Barcelona. Microsoft covered over a swimming pool to build this temporary facility.

Here’s the view from outside the event:

3:18 pm: “Please take your seats,” booms the invisible voice. “The show will begin shortly.”

The show?

3:20 pm: If you haven’t already, check out this story, which reviews some new business details about Windows 8, including a “Windows to Go” feature that lets Windows run on a thumb drive.

3:21 pm: Windows exec Tami Reller kicking things off, noting to half the crowd that they are on top of the pool.

It’s not my half, so we should be safe.

3:22 pm: Cue Windows President Steven Sinofsky. “We are really excited to be here,” Sinofsky said, before correcting himself to use Microsoft-preferred parlance of “super-excited.”

3:23 pm: Hits key points for Microsoft about Windows 8: Bold reimagining, from chipset to interface and application model.

Today, there are too many trade-offs, Sinofsky said.

We’re choosing between performance or battery life, consumption or content creation, touch or keyboard-and-mouse.

Win 8, I’m sure he’s about to say, is no-compromises.

Yep. Just said it.

3:26 pm: Okay. Here we go, changes in Windows 8 since the developer preview.

“Lots of the product” wasn’t done with developer release, Sinofsky said.

3:28 pm: Since developer preview, 100,000 code changes to Windows 8.

“It’s much more polished, much more refined,” he said.

“Windows 8 is a generational change in the operating system,” Sinofsky said. “Things are different than the last time we made a generational change with Windows 95.”

3:31 pm: Uh-oh. Sinofsky says one plus one, when it comes to apps in Windows 8, equals three.

I’ll tell you this, if that’s the case, I don’t want to use the calculator app.

3:32 pm: Demo time. It’s Julie Larson-Green, who heads design and vision for Windows 8, and Antoine Leblond, the VP who has headed up the Windows Store that is built into Windows 8.

3:34 pm: Larson-Green demoing, starting with login screen, including photo-based password that they have shown. Boots to start screen with a bunch of apps, including Kobo, some Xbox live games, as well as tiles for friends and Web sites.

“I can have as many as I want,” she said.

3:37 pm: The goal, she said, is that everything should be “fast and fluid,” and she said all features and tweaks were judged to make sure they lived up to that.

3:38 pm: Among the preinstalled apps in preview is Xbox Live Games, although that demo generated two error messages (but fast and fluid ones).

3:39 pm: Now demoing Cut the Rope, which its developer has taken from an HTML5 app to Windows 8.

3:40 pm: Windows 8 has a video and music store built-in, with rent and purchase options.

3:41 pm: Switching apps is easier than hitting alt-tab, as in traditional Windows. That was fast, but not so fluid. Now, choosing among open apps is a swipe away.

3:42 pm: There’s a people app that connects to Facebook, Windows Live, Twitter, Google and Exchange. This seems to work very similarly to the way they work on Windows Phone, which is to say nicely.

3:45 pm: Systemwide sharing allows apps to share with one another and share to services.

“That is a quick peek at Windows 8 running on this tablet PC,” she said, handing off to Leblond to show it on a laptop.

“Windows 8 isn’t just about tablets and touch devices,” Leblond said.

He’s showing things on a Lenovo Ultrabook.

Logs in with a four-digit PIN code, another of Windows 8’s login options.

3:49 pm: If you are taking a drink every time you hear “fast and fluid,” you are already too drunk to read this.

3:55 pm: Now he’s demoing the familiar desktop in Windows 8. He shows Office. (For you Windows nerds out there, it’s labeled “Build 8250.”)

3:57 pm: Desktop is just another app, Leblond says, showing how a Metro-style app can run next to the desktop.

All of the things you know and love in Windows 7 are still there, Leblond said.

Larson-Green is back to show an Acer all-in-one with touch and keyboard.

And she logs in with a password this time.

Cool thing is all the stuff from her other machine is there on this machine, just by signing in to that machine with the same Windows Live account. (Not instantly, I don’t think, but still.)

SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage, is integrated too.

Here’s the desktop app, by the way:

The consumer preview is now available, Microsoft says on its Web site.

4:04 pm: We’re getting a tour of the store from Leblond. I’m multitasking and reading the just-issued press release, too.

4:05 pm: Not much in the press release that looks new to me. New preview version of Internet Explorer 10; test ARM hardware being made available only to select partners, as they said earlier this month.

There’s also a mention of sharing across Windows 8 and Windows Phone, but they haven’t talked about that onstage yet.

Okay, back to the event. Leblond reminds audience that during beta — err — consumer preview, only free apps will be in the store.

4:07 pm: Leblond notes that the company had an apps contest to allow a few small app developers to join the big names in the Windows Store. There are eight winners, but they flipped by too fast for me.

SigFig and Air Soccer are a couple of them.

4:10 pm: Not surprisingly, some folks are telling me on Twitter that Microsoft’s servers are getting hammered, and downloads are going slow.

Patience, people, patience. (I know, I’m not patient, either.)

By the way, everything Microsoft has shown today could have been done on ARM, I believe. The only desktop app shown was Office 2010. (Slight difference: Office 15 will be built into Windows on ARM.)

4:11 pm: While OS is pretty ready, Sinofsky said, the add-on apps are at an earlier stage. Probably going to be updated, look may change and others may be added.

4:13 pm: Charms feature that allows for sharing among apps that don’t know about one another is kind of like a modern, cloud-connected clipboard.

One of the demos, for example, was a USA Today article being shared to WordPress.com.

4:14 pm: Talk shifts to hardware, with Sinofsky previewing some of the stuff partners have been working on.

Coming on stage is Mike Angiulo, who heads up some of the work with hardware makers.

Angiulo shows a Windows 8 ARM tablet.

4:19 pm: The “fast and fluid” thing has reached epidemic proportions.

4:21 pm: Angiulo showed a very brief glimpse of Office 15 on Windows on ARM.

I have a feeling people will be going back in the replay a lot to see that part.

I’ll spare you my blurrycam shot. I looked at it. Even I can’t tell which app it was.

Angiulo holds up a next-generation Intel Ultrabook, as well. It’s silver, and says “Ultrabook” on the hinge.

Inside, Angiulo said, is mobile broadband, touchscreen and Ivy Bridge chip.

4:25 pm: Demo of fast start-up, which Angiulo says can be done in as little as eight seconds from “cold boot.”

4:26 pm: Cool laptop with motorized door that flips down to reveal ports.

For road warriors, Sinofsky said, “ports aren’t an option. You really, really need them.”

4:27 pm: Second-generation Samsung Series 9 is the latest in the hardware wheel-of-Windows 8-fortune.

Next up, carbon fiber Dell XPS 13, a 13-inch laptop in a 12-inch design.

Not just fast boot and resume, Angiulo said. Network connectivity can happen in under a second.

Other wireless networking features — cost-aware network switching to auto-switch from mobile broadband to known Wi-Fi or your carrier’s Wi-Fi.

4:31 pm: In many cases, Sinofsky promises, your PC will be able to log back into a known network before a user types in their password (for those who need a password to resume).

4:32 pm: Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga, an interesting device from CES, makes an appearance. It can fold into a tablet, laptop, as well as a presentation-style mode.

Trivia time: Microsoft Mouse turns 30 this year, Sinofsky said.

Giant 82-inch Gorilla Glass screen in the back isn’t a monitor, but a Windows 8 PC from Jeff Han’s Perceptive Pixel. He’s the guy who builds that high-end CNN touchscreen.

They also demo NFC-pairing of a wireless speaker.

4:41 pm: Windows 8 can treat a bunch of hard drives like one big physical drive, as part of “Storage Spaces.”

4:43 pm: Last demo was actually done on a Windows 7 PC that was running Windows 8 off a flash drive using the “Windows to Go” feature that leaked out earlier today, thanks to a business guide posted to Microsoft’s Web site a wee bit early.

More Windows 8 enterprise talk at CeBit in a few days, Sinofsky promises.

4:46 pm: 4:46 pm: “Touch PCs are on the way, in all shapes and sizes,” Sinofsky promises.

Notes that it won’t have to be a trade-off of touch or mouse-and-keyboard. Can have both, or keyboard and mouse only, when you want it.

4:48 pm: Sinofsky starting to wrap up, it seems.

4:48 pm: Consumer preview in five languages — English, German, French, Japanese and simplifed Chinese.

Sinofsky is his trademark vague on timing, noting that the next milestone is the release candidate.

“We delivered the consumer preview just as we promised,” he said, noting that it was being downloaded almost immediately in more than 70 countries.

Coming up on the blog: System requirements and other details not offered up today.

And … that’s it.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google