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Microsoft's Build keynote: 5 key takeaways

Microsoft takes the wraps off Windows 8 at its developer conference, and is giving those developers a preview version of the software so they can start building apps on it.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft's president of the Windows Division pitches attendees at the Build conference.
Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft's president of the Windows division, pitches attendees at the Build conference. Microsoft

At its Build conference in Anaheim, Calif., Microsoft today gave developers a deep dive into Windows 8, the company's upcoming operating system designed to run on desktops, notebooks, and touch-screen tablets.

The key takeaway is the software itself, which developers get their hands on this evening. Developers at the show will also walk away with what Microsoft is calling a "Developer PC." It's a Samsung slate with a developer preview version of Windows 8 meant for building and testing applications, including those made especially for tablets.

Microsoft spent the bulk of the presentation demonstrating Windows 8 itself, as well as well as demonstrating how to build applications that fit the new paradigm of an OS that can work as both a touch and tablet experience and Windows as its traditional desktop OS. The company also went over how the OS can fit into a variety of hardware, from old Netbooks to slates and bleeding-edge gaming rigs.

Here are five main things focused on in Microsoft's presentation, which ran nearly two and a half hours:

1. Windows 7 is still going strong
Even though the day was about Windows 8, Microsoft announced it's approaching 450 million copies of Windows 7 sold thus far, with Windows 7 "consumer usage" coming in greater than Windows XP.

2. Metro is here
Windows' new trick is swapping between the traditional Windows interface, and the new "Metro" style that's touch-friendly. While the new star of the show is the Metro look, Microsoft demonstrated that you can very quickly make apps that work with both interfaces, as well as using the Metro interface even if you don't have a touch screen. We also got to see how Microsoft is managing to bring over some of its apps like its e-mail client, contacts, photos, Web browser, and calendaring tools to the newer style.

Windows 8's Metro look.
Windows 8's Metro look Microsoft

3. Touch everything
Hand in hand with Metro is the use of touch, offering users on tablets a way to interact with Windows minus the stylus. Microsoft was keen to point out that Windows 8 users can continue to use a pen, or their finger, including variants on the operating system's virtual keyboard that let users touch type keys, or write things out using Microsoft's handwriting recognition technology.

4. Windows 8 is cloud-enabled
A key component of Windows 8 is integration with Microsoft's cloud services. In today's demo, that included a look at how Windows 8 can tap into SkyDrive to fetch files and make data available between multiple computers, even if they're behind corporate firewalls. A demo that didn't quite work aimed to show how SkyDrive could be used to simplify file sharing between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7 devices.

5. Build with us
Of course the main reason to fully debut the software at a developer event is to get developers interested. Microsoft focused this message into the ease of development and deployment. Onstage demos included building Metro-style applications on the platform, then testing them out and posting them for sale on Microsoft's upcoming Windows application store. The company also provided reference hardware to attendees, and a preview version of the software to get started.

For more on Windows 8, you can catch the rest of CNET's coverage with the below links:
Hands-on with Windows 8
Bold new look and feel
Images: Windows 8
ZDNet: Windows 8 unveiled
ZDNet: What we know know (and don't)