Notes from BUILD – Day 1 – Keynote Part 5 – Michael Angiulo’s Hardware Platform Presentation and Demos

This is part of a transcription of my notes from Microsoft’s recent BUILD conference in Anaheim, CA, minus anything that might be considered Red Gate confidential. Thus, they’re somewhat unstructured, sometimes ramble off-topic, and often contain dodgy grammar. My own commentary and observations will generally be italicised so you can easily distinguish it from the reporting on what actually happened. Much has already been said about this conference, and about Windows 8, but I hope you find these useful. Please feel free to comment or ask questions and I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can.

Michael Angiulo is Corporate Vice President, Windows Planning & Ecosystem, Microsoft Corporation.

The first thing Michael talked about was the boot time for Windows 8, which is measured quite literally in seconds. They initially demoed this on a PC that had been designed to work with Windows 7, and had it boot in 8 seconds. I’m still a bit sceptical about this, even having used my Samsung slate for a while. This does seem to boot even from cold in about 5 – 8 seconds, but I wonder how the system will perform after I’ve installed a load of Win32 desktop apps and filled my registry with crud. Would love to be proven wrong.

Supports UEFI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Extensible_Firmware_Interface) which includes a sort of connected standby mode. Windows 8 is also very secure due to the implementation of BitLocker security – possibly with hardware support (? – I may be wrong about that last point).

Did a quick demo of Metro running on ARM hardware. I assume C++ Metro apps just require a recompile to run on ARM.

Demoed new “connected standy” state, which is a VERY low powered idle state offering instant on/off, and brings a phone-like power on/off experience to the PC.

Also supports USB3 and gave a quick demo of a USB3 versus USB2 file copy – obviously USB3 is MUCH faster.

Windows 8 now supports booting from disks up to 256TB, which improves significantly on Windows 7’s support for disks up to only 2TB. Sounds insane but I’m sure we’ll all take that for granted in five years time.

DirectX 11 looks really cool, and Michael gave a nice quick tech demo of this – the next generation of games are certainly going to have sweet graphics. In Windows 8 the whole OS sits on a hardware accelerated platform, so all rendering is done by DX11, and accelerated graphics come for free for all apps.

On the screen front, all touch screens must have “first pixel sensitivity” since Windows uses the first line of pixels along each edge of the screen to activate system and app bars, and to switch between apps. To me this seems to work variably on the Samsung developer preview hardware so you quite often have to swipe in from the edge two or three times to get a response from the system (e.g., bringing up settings & charms, switching back to the previous app, or bringing up the app bar).

You also get more functionality in Metro, and obviously more tiles on screen, as screen resolution increases.

Windows 8 provides a very simple Sensor API (is this only available to Metro apps via WinRT, or can it be accessed via desktop apps also?) to access the accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyroscope.

Also includes support for Near Field Communication (NFC – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_field_communication) for sending data over very short distances (think centimeters). It’s mainly about easing transactions and in this context seems to me mostly relevant for phones rather than larger form factors such as tablets, which might be a little unwieldy. That said, there may be other applications for easily transferring data between tablets or between phone and tablet, netbook, laptop, or desktop PC.

There is a unified notification mechanism for Metro style “device apps”. “Device apps” are apps for items such as printers, connectivity (e.g., from 3G), etc. In the 3G example it’s possible to use the USSD sideband protocol to query and update account information without incurring roaming charges. USSD = Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unstructured_Supplementary_Service_Data).

Showed a new (to Windows) laptop form factor – the “Ultrabook” – which offers an incredibly thin and powerful computing experience, rather like the MacBook Air. Inside the machine it turns out that most of the space is taken up by the battery, with a very small mainboard and integrated SSD.

It was at this point they also announced the Samsung “Windows Developer Preview PC”, which later on in the day they handed out to all attendees – this includes some interesting stuff: the first public Windows 8 preview build, and the Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview.