This is another post in our series about the Chemical Reference Architecture (ChemRA). We will examine how the next release of Windows, code-named Windows 8, fits in the overall architecture. The best way to do this is compare how Windows 8 supports and enhances some of the architecture principles.

One of the main principles is a rich, intuitive user experience. Windows 8 satisfies this requirement as it does not only support traditional means of interaction with computers, such as keyboards and mice, but also includes intrinsic, strong support for multi-touch and voice recognition. Users can easily interact with and navigate their way through the system and hosted apps by touching and swiping or using a stylus. Voice recognition is greatly enhanced and, with some initial training, people can literally talk to their computer to provide their commands and content.

Windows 8 supports the Metro style user interface (see picture above) initially featured in the Windows Phone 7 operating system. Apps are represented on the desktop by elegant tiles that are neatly arranged and grouped according to the user needs. These tiles are “live” as they can display live data feeds relevant to the app they represent. For example, the live tile for a financial app could display prices of major indices or investments the user cares to follow closely. Similarly, the live tile of a quality app could display alerts or metrics relevant to operations the user cares to be informed about in a timely manner. Such displays help the user get valuable information without even opening the app. If the information displayed on the tile warrants further examination, the user can open the app and interact with it more deeply.

The Metro style really helps users be more productive by providing them peeks at the most important information they need in the apps. For developers, the metro style allows them to display critical information pulled from the app data to the user with minimal effort. Developers do not have to learn new tools and technologies; rather, they can use the same tools they used in the past: Visual Studio, Expression Suite, and others to build such apps. Converting some of the apps they had built in the past to the Metro style is also easy. Microsoft provides many tools and samples on how to do that. This allows users to continue to enjoy the benefits of their apps in their old form or in a new Metro style.

Another major principle of the architecture is application interoperability. Windows 8 makes application interoperability and integration easier. For example, integrating any app with the built-in search in Windows 8 is a matter of configuration that allows users to search data in the app along with data in the file system or across other hosted apps.

Finally, Windows 8 provides a solid, reliable, and secure operating system, another important principle of the reference architecture. Built-in security features protect the system and user against viruses and other malware. Windows 8 continues to support bit-locker and bit-locker to go providing added security to users’ data against loss or theft of their PCs. Windows 8 makes extensive use of hardware acceleration. For example, the whole graphical interface relies on the GPU and a separate video memory allowing for greatly increased screen rendering performance. Windows 8 also uses great tactics to enhance performance in a multi-tasking environment. For instance, when different apps are running, they all get loaded in memory. However, only the application the user is interacting with consumes CPU cycles and the rest are placed in a “suspended” state.  

Windows 8 provides great flexibility to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and users alike in terms of form facto support. Windows 8 will run on traditional X86 chips as well as ARM-based chips. As a result, end users can enjoy using different types of PCs from small slates with great battery life, and light weight, to industrial machines that require a great deal of computation power.

These are only a few features that make Windows 8 an essential component that enhances the infrastructure of any IT environment providing great user experience, great business insight and app interoperability, as well as a solid foundation based on security and high performance.