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Windows 8 Extends to the Cloud

The world got to see the next version of Windows this week, and while its new Metro user interface promises to change how users interact with their PCs, it also will leverage the cloud in new ways.

Not that that should be a surprise. With Microsoft's marching orders that it is "all in" the cloud, one would expect Windows to lead the charge. At its Build conference in Anaheim, Calif. this week, Microsoft gave the first in-depth public demos of Windows 8 and Windows Server 8, the code names for the next Windows releases.

Also at Build, Microsoft announced some important updates to its Windows Azure cloud service, including the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8, enabling developers to build cloud-based services for Metro-based apps. (For more on the Windows Azure announcements, see my colleague Kurt Mackie's report).

The new touch-based Metro user interface in Windows 8 replaces traditional Windows icons with tiles, the most significant overhaul in Windows since its release. Windows 8 will usher in a new crop of slate-based devices designed to compete with Apple's iPad. But Windows 8 will also work on traditional desktop PCs and laptops.

Windows 8 is intertwined with Windows Live, Microsoft's set of cloud services for individuals. Users will be able to log on to their Windows 8 devices using their Windows Live IDs. Controls ranging from browser history, themes, e-mail accounts and various other settings will be saved in the cloud and can be shared among a user's multiple PCs and phones.

"Windows 8 gets much better when you connect it up to an incredibly rich set of cloud-based services with Windows Live and use some of the new Metro-style apps that we've written to connect up to Windows Live," said Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, during the Build keynote Tuesday.

Chris Jones, Microsoft's corporate VP for Windows Live, demonstrated a connected address book which is a Metro-styled app that lets users combine their contacts from various e-mail accounts and social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Jones also demonstrated a photo app that uses Windows Live to share photos from other services such as Facebook and Flickr.

Windows 8 also will leverage Microsoft's SkyDrive, a cloud-based storage service that provides every Windows Live user with 25 GB of storage capacity. Users can access files in SkyDrive just as they do in the local file system, Jones explained.

Using the Live APIs for SkyDrive, developers can build their own cloud-connected Metro apps, Sinofsky said.

What's your take on Windows 8? Comment below or drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on September 15, 2011 at 11:59 AM


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