Live from D9: Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky talks Windows and more

Eager for more? We're settled in (again) at D9 here in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, and with HP's boss headed for stage right, it's Steven Sinofsky finding a comfortable spot in the hot seat. For those needing a refresher, he's the president of Windows and Windows Live, and with rampant talk of Windows 8 dominating the news this week, we're clearly hoping to catch a few quips about how the outfit's next major OS release will be (prayerfully) tailored for tablets. Join us for the blow by blow just after the break!

8:01PM And that's a wrap! Stay tuned -- Nokia's head man Stephen Elop will be taking the stage next!

8:00PM Also, in case you haven't noticed, apps are definitely going to be a part of Windows 8. No one specifically said that, but it's pretty obvious.

7:59PM An OEM could make a tablet in which the user would never see "normal Windows?" No, you can't turn "the desktop" off, it's just part of the way that it works. It's always there. The code is there."

7:58PM Question: Could I make a tablet where you never see the "old house?"

Answer: You'd have to just not use a desktop-based application. In other words, it'll always live there.

7:57PM "It's not a layer, it's Windows. It runs across hundreds of millions of PCs, and works across a vast variety of machines. It's much more seamless than a layer, it's not two shelves."

7:56PM Question: How is this different than TouchSmart, or just another layer on top of Windows?

7:55PM Question on if Microsoft's going to be integrating its services in Windows 8. Steven's affirming that it'll happen. Office 365, etc.

7:53PM The Windows 8 convertible shown in this demo was running on Atom -- so that confirms at least some of the lower-level specifications.

7:51PM Asked about development, Steven confirmed that the browser within Windows 8 will run Silverlight. We support the most, different ways to reach users.

7:50PM Asked about a transition strategy for ARM, Steven says there won't be a virtualization model. The company decided that the modern apps, written in HTML5 and Java, etc., will likely provide the best user experience.

7:49PM Questions!

7:49PM Steven: "I think we could still do a lot of work with our OEM partners, they view the things they do [i.e. bloatware] as value-adding things."

7:48PM Walt wants to know if Windows 8 machines will boot "as fast as a MacBook Air." Steven won't give a straight answer.

7:48PM "Adding and removing programs is super easy within Windows 8."

7:47PM Steven just runs Microsoft Security Essentials, and I never get a pop-up. Problem is, the vast majority of Windows-based PCs have all sorts of annoying security software loaded on. The question is: will a future Lenovo tablet come with Security Essentials, or some Norton program on there? Walt's worried about tiles being cluttered with these very apps.

7:45PM Steven wants to talk interface. Walt wants to get down to brass tacks. Getting beyond the pretty start screen, so to speak.

7:44PM Steven: "It's always smart to run anti-virus software." Sigh.

7:44PM Walt: "What about security? Am I really going to have to install anti-virus software on a lovely looking tablet?"

7:43PM It's monumentally impressive to us that Microsoft thinks they've got a full-on tablet solution within a full-on copy of Windows. What happens if you install the next Crysis on a tablet with an embedded GPU?

7:41PM So, you design for touch, and then you translate to mouse / keyboard, and it doesn't feel clumsy. In other words, you'll need to use arrow keys to "swipe" from pane to pane. Also, the Windows key will remain in Windows 8, much to Walt's chagrin -- we're told that that'll take you back to the start / home screen.

7:40PM Walt: "If I'm a developer, am I torn between designing an app for mouse-use or touch-use, since this will be just one OS for all kinds of systems?" A darn good point, might we say.

7:39PM Steven's talking up connectivity -- in September, we'll hear about apps talking and sharing and consuming information from other apps. An example, here's a photo app that can publish photos from another photo app that peeks into the cloud to get it.

7:38PM Walt: "You'll have a dev conference in September, and will you have developer tools so that third-party apps can look like this?"

Steven: "Yes! There's all new APIs so you can build things to look like this. You'll have access to entirely new services (like the photo file picker)."

7:37PM Walt's pointing out that there's elements of Zune and Media Center in here, but the casual user may be "shocked" when they look it.

7:36PM Is Microsoft worried that enterprise users may see this and think it's too consumer-focused?

Not really -- employees are consumers too, and the lines have blurred somewhat. That has definitely been a recurring theme throughout D9, starting with Eric Schmidt's line that traditional IT is dead.

7:35PM When's it coming out?

Steven: "Right now, we're focused on getting the release done, and the next milestone is the developer conference in September. We're aiming to keep new Windows builds coming every two the three years. I can tell you it won't be this fall."

7:35PM Kara seemed fairly upset that Office still takes you back to what's effectively a Windows 7 interface; the Microsoft team seems to think that Office will be lagging behind when it comes to a refined interface.

7:34PM Walt: "This seems like the biggest change in Windows since Windows 95."

7:33PM So, there's a fancy new interface, but Microsoft's stance from Computex 2010 hasn't changed in the least. There's just a single OS. Touch, non-touch, laptop, desktop, tablet -- one OS. The question remains: will a hulking Windows install actually feel elegant when used on a tablet?

7:32PM "Hundreds of millions of PCs will run Windows 8, doesn't matter if it supports touch or not."

7:31PM And here's a Lenovo ThinkPad X220 running Windows 8. Don't get your hopes up -- these are just here for demonstration purposes.

7:31PM Here's a shot of multitasking, all initiated by touch.

7:30PM Microsoft's affirming that everything's able to be customized. It also just dawned on us that some of this looks a lot like Media Center. Obviously, WP7 comes to mind first, but there's definitely elements here that we've seen before in some form or fashion.

7:29PM The Start bar definitely reappears with Office. Evidently Microsoft didn't want to let go of it when it comes to Office.

7:28PM Also new for Windows 8 is a "basket" feature, looks like a branch of social networking where your friends' photos are pulled into a Photos application.

7:26PM Whoa, wait! They just pulled up Excel, and now it looks just like Windows 7! Hmm. Microsoft: "We don't think people should have to give up things they know to deal with a new form factor."

7:25PM Multiple built-in keyboards! There's a split one for typing on vertically-held slates. Wild!

7:23PM We're told that every desktop app will run in this environment, and the Internet Explorer has been rebuilt for more modern demands and usage expectations.

7:22PM Whoa, the start tiles have "definitely replaced" the Start Menu. RIP Start Menu!

7:21PM Loads of "live tiles." If you've seen Mango, you've seen this, largely. Super exciting direction for Windows.

7:20PM No more blank desktop! It's a WP7-esque interface -- tons of tiles pop up when you come to "the desktop," and it looks totally customizable.

7:19PM When Microsoft started to think about its next release, it wanted Windows to become more modern. It's now important to connect with a social network, and the internet is a huge part of your experience. Sounds a lot like the Chrome OS mantra!

7:18PM Demo! It's a test rig here -- all these cards run the screen, and there's a desktop below pushing the power.

7:17PM Steven: "A word we used in development was 'modern.'"

7:16PM Steven: "We colored outside of the lines with this release, and we're excited about it." Likewise!

7:15PM Walt: "Why is your approach here better?"

Steven: "It's better because of all the things that Windows brings..."

Walt: "Let me say here -- viruses, malware, etc."

7:14PM Steven: "Give us some time -- we'll figure out the real name in due time."

Walt just said we'll see the new build of Windows "shortly." In case you couldn't tell, we're sitting on the edge of our seat... mildly uncomfortable, but worth it.

7:12PM So, a new, full version of Windows on tablet. We're just calling it Windows 8 right now, says Steven.

7:12PM Steven: "In Taiwan, in about two hours, we're show prototypes running the next release of Windows on ARM." Exciting! We'll be on the lookout at Computex.

7:10PM Oooh, here comes the demo man! He's setting things up over here on the stage...

7:09PM Steven: "People told us the same thing when it comes to servers."

7:08PM Walt: "I get the sense that Windows is this big, sluggish thing. The more you use it, the more it slows down. When I turn on an Android tablet or iPad, it just feels light and new. Why would you turn to this big, heavy Windows thing instead of doing another OS for tablets?"

7:07PM If you'll recall, at Computex 2010, Microsoft seemed certain that Windows 7 was their tablet OS. A year later, that's hardly proven true -- a handful of Win7 tablets made their way out, but none of 'em struck a major chord with consumers.

Here's hoping that changes today. Meanwhile, Steven's talking about the WinNT kernel.

7:06PM Really beating around the bush -- those dev boards back there are just yearning to be grasped.

Steven's talking about Microsoft's efforts thus far with touch; while Windows 7 "has it," the company understood that things needed to be attacked differently for tablets.

7:04PM Steven: "Over the 25 years of Windows, I've been impressed with the flexibility of Windows. It started as giant machines with few resources." He's going over a full history of Windows, we think. Let's get touching!

7:02PM No question about it -- we're hearing about Windows 8 today.

7:01PM Steven, speaking about matching the iPad: "We aren't there yet, but we'll get to some of that today." Woo! Diving in here...

7:00PM Walt: "Is it because you're big and bureaucratic?"

Steven: "Well, we aren't out of the game -- you picked a few things that we've not done well on, while there are some things we've done well. There's now more opportunity for us to do a better job. We didn't do the job, and now we have to go after it."

6:59PM Walt: "We're still not seeing [Microsoft] tablets with a multitouch-optimized OS from you, and the iPad's been out some 16-17 months. So, what's going on?"

6:58PM Steven: "We definitely missed the iPhone -- we didn't do that one." Ha!

6:58PM Walt: "It's a little unfair here, 'cause you aren't the CEO of Microsoft, but since you're the Microsoft man here -- you've missed a couple of things, big things, right?"

6:57PM Steven: "Nothing called the Gang Of Four" ends well. Lots of laughs.

6:57PM Walt just asked how Steven feels about not being in Eric Schmidt's "Gang Of Four." He seems to be playing it down a bit, and Walt's suggesting that a score ago, we may have said it's a Gang Of One, with One being Microsoft.

6:56PM Steven: "Around 6,000 people working on Windows, IE, and in the division I'm in." That's a lot of folk!

6:55PM Lights are down -- here we go! Steven's out!

6:52PM Oh, snap! Is that a pair of Windows 8-based tablets up there on stage? Dollars to donuts we'll get a demo here shortly...

6:49PM Crazy loud music in here. The party is officially on.

6:46PM And we're in! Hoping for a real-deal Windows 8 demo, but who knows what the future may hold. Seriously, anyone?