Windows 8, the Marmite of the computing world.
Whether you love it or loathe it, there is one feature that is widely accepted as a redeeming feature across the desktop, tablet, and smartphone iterations of the OS.
This feature is, of course, live tiles.
In an OS that has been slated for its compatibility issues with standard peripherals on desktop machines live tiles have stood out as a good idea at the very least, even if they were rather poorly implemented on conventional machines.
It now seems that Microsoft wish to take these live tiles forward and develop their functionality beyond the snapshot of information that they currently serve.
At the moment the live tiles replace the need for a dedicated notification centre (although this will be coming to Windows Phones with the 8.1 update released later this year), as any updates or notifications are displayed right there on the Start Screen, via a live tile.
A number of videos have surfaced from Microsoft’s research team showing off the new layer of functionality to the live tile system, as they seem to be developing interactivity into the live tiles themselves.
The videos show off the ability to scroll and run aspects of an application from the Start Screen, directly through the live tile itself.
An example of this it scrolling through your email inbox, via the mail tile, or responding to notifications from the ‘People’ tile on a Windows computer or tablet.
Adding this feature to the already pleasing live tile system has the possibility to make the Metro UI a tad more user friendly, as you can start a music playlist, respond to a Facebook post on your wall, check the news and weather, and open up an email for response, all from the Start Screen – without opening any of the individual applications.
On top of this Microsoft seem keen to continue the push of the whole ‘one experience across multiple devices’ spiel with Windows 8, as a nifty quick access feature looks set to be introduced between tablet and desktop devices and mobile handsets.
This comes in the form of using a Windows Phone to scan a live tile from the Start Screen of a desktop Windows device, enabling you to load the relevant application on the Phone as you go.
The sharing functionality between the two devices was highlighted best in one the aforementioned videos, in which a user typed out ‘thanks’ in response to a Facebook post on his wall (using the interactive live tiles) and was able to scan the tile with his phone, enabling him to access the post and message on his phone directly
Of course this isn’t the first instance of NFC being utilised in this sort of fashion, but still it is a clever implementation of the technology and will push the relationship between Windows devices to a new level.
One final aspect to the large scale “parallel tasking” reveal by the Microsoft Research team shows that these interactive tiles can be accessed alongside full screen apps, allowing more multitasking on the Windows environment.
What this means is that when you are running a full screen instance of Excel, for example, you can quickly open a toolbar that will give you access to the likes of OneDrive.
All in all these additional features, that could be rolled out with the next major overhaul of the Windows system, look great.
Sure they’re not revolutionary, in fact it seems that the live tiles are getting an element of Android widgets spliced into the design, but that doesn’t mean the extra functionality should be balked at.
Microsoft did scramble to take all of the above leaks down from the web, so it is likely they don’t want to reveal the features fully for another few months, of course when they do reveal the update to the UI fully we’ll keep you posted.
What do you guys think, any Windows 8 users out there that have had their interest gauged by this update, or any perspective Windows 8 users that could make the jump on the back of these features being added? At the same time are there users out there that remain sceptical about the OS as a whole, and think that interactive tiles are unlikely to swing your opinion? Let us know in the comments below.