Microsoft have released lots of information about Windows 8.1 including the new Start Tip and start menu options and we know smaller Windows 8 tablets are on the way. In the transcript of Microsoft’s press event at Computex Microsoft talked about the improvements in Windows 8.1 and one thing that I found interesting is Microsoft are improving how Windows works in portrait use. I use my Surface RT in landscape most of the time but with a smaller 8 inch or less tablets Windows needs to work well in portrait mode. In transcript of the keynote Tami Reller said that the they have improved the built in apps, most of the built in apps currently work ok in portrait but some like the store app forces you back to landscape which is a pain. As well as the app optimisation Microsoft have improved the edge detection so devices can have smaller bezels.
Other changes like having all the old desktop control panel features in the Metro PC settings app should make for a much better experience on smaller tablets. I would love to see a 8 inch Surface.
Now, let’s talk about devices for a second here. In Windows 8 the tablet experience was really optimized around sort of 10- or 11-inch things, right, 10- or 11-inch devices. And, of course, we recognize that there’s been a huge amount of innovation and a huge amount of energy behind smaller devices like this one.
So this one is an Acer 8-inch device, right? And it’s a beautiful little machine but we didn’t do all the work we needed in Windows 8 to make this work really well.
These devices obviously want to be held in portrait mode. They’re much more comfortable to hold that way.
And so we did some work in Windows 8.1 to have portrait-specific Start screen layouts that work much better. All of the apps that are in the box actually work just as well in portrait mode as they work in landscape. We did some work at the device interface level around edge detection and things like that to make it easier to have smaller bezels on these devices so that OEMs and folks who build devices like this could build exactly the kinds of devices they want, and Windows 8.1 will be great on them.
Now, one of the things that’s interesting about a small device like this is that it’s actually the kind of device where you really want to be able to stay inside what we call the modern experience. The desktop on a device that small is actually really, really hard to navigate. So things that force you to go into the desktop are really problematic.