In the world of user interfaces, what began in the 1980s as a keyboard and command prompt has steadily progressed along with advances in hardware and software, though not always at the same pace. Many of the systems delivered with Microsoft Windows* 3.1 in the early 1990s included a mouse only if it had burrowed its way into the box at the warehouse.
Windows 7 was an incredibly popular operating system. Within the first year of its release more than 150 million licenses sold. Millions of PCs in use today were built with Intel® architecture, and the GUI is such an integral part of the personal computer that to omit an electronic pointing device from any Windows system would simply be unthinkable.
Or would it?
Some of today’s most advanced human-machine interfaces are found in IBM Watson*, the AI system that handily defeated human champions of the quiz show Jeopardy, and Microsoft’s Kinect* and Apple’s Siri*. And today’s most advanced notebooks continue to communicate even when they’re asleep. What will tomorrow’s interfaces be like? Perhaps a new generation of tablets will be controlled entirely by gestures. Or maybe next year’s smartphones will accept only voice commands.
Under development since 2009, Windows 8 will usher in a new era of human-machine interactions. This operating system represents a significant advance for tablets, convertibles, and other new System-on-Chip (SoC) form factors. And with its signature Metro style UI, Windows 8 unifies the computing experience across the desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone with a single, consistent look and feel. Live Tiles, full-screen apps, and a drag-to-switch metaphor allow Windows 8 to combine finger-flick dashboard navigation with the clickand- drag experience of the mouse, and together with Intel® platforms these features deliver the world’s best client computing experience.
But that’s just the beginning. Coupled with Intel’s Ultrabook™ device specification, Windows 8—the reimagined Windows—will support a new generation of sensory inputs that will once again change the way we interact with computers.
Intel will deliver a new 32nm Intel® Atom™ processor SoC platform that’s designed specifically for Windows 8 running on a new generation of tablets and convertible devices. These devices will represent the culmination of Intel’s 30-year collaboration with Microsoft to deliver a full range of outstanding PC equipment for today’s demanding consumers. Intel expects to see hundreds of millions of such devices enter the marketplace, devices tuned and optimized to deliver the highest levels of compatibility and performance available.
That’s where you come in. What will developers do with these next-generation devices and the sensors that millions of us will be carrying this year? Will you be the one who builds the next major advancement in human-machine interaction? What types of new sensory and gesture-based interfaces are on the horizon with Windows 8 and the tablets, convertibles, and Ultrabook devices coming our way?
From Key Clicks to Finger Flicks
Dozens of devices are available today that fit or come close to Intel’s Ultrabook device specifications for system size, shape, performance, security, and cost. They’re easy to spot. Hallmarks include a thin and light profile, extended battery life, and highly responsive application and operating system performance, thanks to the 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family. Add Windows 8 to the mix and Ultrabook devices will deliver faster resume times, continuous network communication during sleep or hibernate modes, and support for full-screen apps and smartphone-like sensors such as accelerometers, gyros, and GPS receivers.
Several companies are working on all-in-one PCs that will be capable of running Windows 8 with a touch-screen monitor. The primary requirement for Windows 8 readiness certification by Microsoft is that all of the monitor’s pixels must be accessible to touch. In essence, this precludes the use of a bezel, and coupled with Windows 8 full-screen app capability, the requirement will give rise to a new class of workstations and kiosks featuring edge-to-edge applications that are completely immersive to the user.
This capability also is well suited to the tablet, for which Microsoft has specifically optimized Windows 8. These devices are best controlled using one thumb on either side of the screen. Windows 8 system controls are operated by swiping from the right edge of the screen, app controls by swiping from the top and bottom edges, and swiping from the left edge switches between running apps. Windows 8 also delivers a new soft keyboard that divides into halves, with each half coming to rest beneath the user’s left- and right-hand thumbs.
The Windows Runtime environment, which is responsible for the full-screen application, is the essence of the Metro-style app immersion. Windows Runtime should not be confused with Windows RT, which is the version of Windows 8 designed to run on ARM*- based devices. Windows RT will be available to device makers only for use as a pre-installed operating system. It will include compatible versions of Word*, Excel*, PowerPoint*, and OneNote* and will run additional apps acquired exclusively from the Microsoft app store.
Intel® Technology and Windows 8: Better Together
For three decades, Intel and Microsoft have worked together to bring businesses and consumers a broad range of innovative computing platforms and experiences that are finely tuned to deliver maximum functionality and compatibility, along with optimum speed and performance. Today, Intel and Microsoft are focused on touch and other sensory inputs, with a new era of sleek, power-efficient, and always-connected tablets, convertibles, Ultrabook devices, and other touch-sensitive devices, empowering users to be mobile yet still highly productive.
Intel is ready with a new series of processor-based platforms for Ultrabook devices as well as for tablets, convertibles, and all-in-one PCs. All of these new device platforms integrate tightly with Windows 8 to provide the three main pillars of a great computing experience: performance, security, and compatibility.
Key parts of Intel’s performance strategy include significantly faster start-up and shut-down times, new power-optimized Intel Atom processors to help deliver longer battery life for tablets and other handheld devices, the 3rd gen Intel Core processor family to deliver processing and graphics experiences to larger, fully-featured systems, and 22nm ULT processors, code-named Haswell. These latter platforms will support features such as Windows Connected Standby, a power mode that keeps networking alive during sleep. This allows a system to accept pushed data without awaking from low-power mode to update, for example, Windows 8 Live Tiles.
While software-based security remains a game of catch-up, Intel is building security into the hardware to provide a more reliable defense. Intel’s processor-based security works with the UEFI 2.3.1 BIOS and Windows 8 to help secure all systems from the moment of start-up, allowing the validation of Windows as it boots and preventing malware from starting before the operating system does. The platform also supports early launch of antimalware, which preloads safeguards in advance of non-critical Windows components to prevent rootkits from taking over the process.
Intel’s next step in security features is Measured Boot, which validates, signs, and stores boot information in Intel’s Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip. The data can then be verified and integritychecked remotely, and remedial steps can be executed when necessary. For TPM-equipped systems, BitLocker Drive Encryption (standard in Windows 8 Pro) seals the deal. BitLocker works more quickly thanks to an assist from Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard - New Instructions, which has been part of the platform since October 2010.
Compatibility is perhaps Intel’s primary differentiator as it increasingly enters into competition with ARM-based devices. The company offers a wide array of ISV products and drivers for its Intel Atom and Intel Core processors; everything currently in place will “just work.” Existing Windows 32-bit or Windows 64-bit x86 applications for Windows 7 will run along with Metro-style apps, or in the Windows 8 Desktop, and most peripherals and drivers are compatible.
Together, Intel and Microsoft are enabling a new world of choices for businesses and consumers. Those choices include handheld devices, convertibles, and lightweight Ultrabook devices, all of which deliver an immersive, connected, and graphically rich computing experience and can run for many hours on a single charge. Choices also include striking all-in-ones and workstations that deliver the features and capabilities users need to remain highly productive all day long.
And all share the common thread of Windows 8, with its single, consistent user interface that presents an exciting and fluid experience from start to finish. Microsoft has re-imagined Windows; Intel has re-appointed processors. Together they are revolutionizing the computing world.
About the Author
Edward J. Correia has been a part of the computer industry since 1980, when he began selling (and occasionally hacking) computers from Atari and Commodore. In addition to writing for RH+M3, Correia currently serves as technical editor at the CRN Test Center, a computer and networking test lab that he helped establish in 1995. During a 10-year hiatus from CRN’s parent company, United Business Media, Correia was editor of Software Test & Performance magazine and executive editor of SD Times.