This blog often focuses on the bits and features and less on the “philosophy” or “context” of the product. Given the level of brand new innovations in Windows 8, however, we think it is worth putting Windows 8 in the context in which we approached the design. As with any significant change to a broadly used product, Windows 8 has generated quite a bit of discussion. With millions of people using the Consumer Preview for their daily work, we’ve seen just as many points of view expressed. Many people—from David Pogue of the New York Times to Mat Honan from Gizmodo and many more—have been quite positive, and others less so, most notably in the comments on this blog, where we’ve seen the rich dialog we’d hoped for. Some have asked about design choices we’ve made in the product and the evolution of Windows or suitability of the design to different people. Some bloggers believe it is critical to further separate the traditional desktop from Metro style elements. Other people believe passionately that it is important to make the desktop more like the Metro style interface. There are as many opinions as there are folks who have tried out the Consumer Preview. Designing a new release of a product already used by a billion people in a billion different ways is, as we say, like ordering pizza for a billion people. Doing so out in the open encourages this dialog, and we embrace and value it. Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for our User Experience team, authored this post.
At the D: All Things Digital conference in June 2011, we demonstrated for the first time the new user interface that we developed for Windows 8. This new UI is fast and fluid to use, and optimized for mobile form factors such as laptops, tablets, and convertibles, where people spend the vast majority of their time today. Windows 8 works equally well with mouse, keyboard, or your fingers, and has the best pen support of any OS. It supports multiple displays and the widest array of configurations and form factors of any OS. On top of all that, Windows 8 introduces a new kind of app, which we codenamed “Metro style” following the design language that has evolved going back to Windows Media Center and the new Windows Phone. These apps are immersive, full-screen, beautiful, and optimized for the ways that people commonly use devices today.
I thought it would be useful to take a step back and describe a little bit of the background of how the Windows 8 user interface was designed, and discuss some of the decisions we’ve made and the goals of this new experience in more detail.
A brief history of the Windows user interface
The user interface of Windows has evolved and been transformed over the course of its entire 27-year history. Although we think about certain aspects of the Windows UI as being static or constant, the reality is that the interface is always changing to keep up with the way people use PCs. It is amazing to reflect back on the history of the Windows UI, and to see the level of dramatic change that has transpired over time.
Read more: Building Windows 8