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Windows 8 shows off tiled, tablet-like interface in first preview

Windows 8 has been shown off in detail, and it's a radical departure from current versions. Gone is the Start button, replaced by Windows Phone-style tiles. Read on for details, and a video.

Microsoft's given the world its first taste of the next version of Windows, inventively codenamed 'Windows 8'. But the flavour might be familiar to some -- the software giant's newest operating system looks an awful lot like Windows Phone.

Windows 8 is built for touchscreen devices as well as normal displays, and features a wall of dynamic tiled widgets that display information from the homescreen, arranged into a grid so colourful it would blind a birthday party clown. This will replace the Start menu.

You can switch between running programs -- sorry, apps -- by swiping the screen from the left, and you can split the screen in two if you want to see more than one app running at the same time. There's a new lock screen too, and several different homescreens to swipe between.

In short, it's very much like a tablet interface, but Microsoft's confident it'll work perfectly well with a mouse and keyboard as well, and will run on desktop computers as well as tablets. Speaking at the All Things Digital conference, Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky said, "The mouse and the keyboard are just tools. They're not evil in and of themselves."

Microsoft might be desperate to break into the tablet market, but the new stylings for Windows 8 won't be to everyone's tastes. While it's a refreshing approach, there are billions of people used to traditional Windows who won't want to have to learn a whole new way of opening their email.

Microsoft's stated that from a technical point of view all programs that run on current versions of Windows will work on Windows 8 (so Clippy is safe, thank goodness), but a completely new user experience is certain to be jolting.

Microsoft's not said when Windows 8 will launch, but we think sometime next year is a safe bet. Take a look at this video, and let us know what you think of the new UI in the comments, or on our Facebook page.