Tech: Windows 8 to support “Retina” displays

So people have been playing around with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview for a month now. And while I’m still going to delve into it in detail and bring info back to you, dear reader, there’s some rumours concerning the development of Windows 8 tablets that’s left me wondering. Right now, a handful of companies make screens that are used in Apple’s iPad. The iPad 1, 2 and iPhone 4 featured Apple’s “Retina” display technology, and brought joy to millions of people who bought them and simultaneously acquired bragging rights.

Go on, count 'em pixels, biatch!

Microsoft’s Windows 8 aims to do exactly what Apple’s been doing since the release of iOS 5.0 and Mac OSX Snow Leopard – bringing a combined ecosystem to the end-user. iOS and OSX in its current form now share sections of code (iOS was always based off desktop Mac code, but more streamlined and stripped-down) and design features like similar app switchers and smaller versions of desktop programs like Adobe Photoshop. Right now, the best way to complement your 27” iMac or iPad 3 is to get yourself an iPhone, an iTunes account and a credit card. Apple rakes in tons of money for people willing to buy into its ecosystem, and for good reason – its cohesive, and wonderfully so.

I’ve always said that cohesiveness was the primary goal any OS developer should have in mind when targeting multiple groups for maximum profit. Switching from a Windows Phone to a tablet and then moving to 8 with Metro on the desktop should be a seamless experience. The user should feel comfortable no matter the platform, and they should all integrate in the same manner that iOS and Mac OSX does.

Not only does Microsoft want that kind of experience, but they are also planning to move to “Retina” displays with a high DPI count to match up to the iPad 3 (which has, probably, the best screen on a tablet ever designed). When designing Metro, Steven Sinofsky (President of the Windows Division) held firm to the idea that Metro should be an interface that looks look on all screens, but especially on smaller-sized ones with a higher DPI count.

So what can we expect from the graph? First things first, Metro is primarily a rectangular interface, so it will scale well on smaller as well as larger screens. The if you have a look at proposed sizes, Microsoft will probably aim for 11.6” screens in their premium models with a DPI of 264, which compares favourably with the iPad 3 and its 264 DPI count.

Looking lower, we’ll also see a 1080p 10.1” screen, as well as 14” 1080p screens that could be destined for laptops. Also interesting to note is that the screen sizes are all industry norms, making development of a scalable GUI once again very easy. Apple’s iPad 3 has double the pixels of the iPad 2, but uses supersampling to make older apps look better, wasting pixels but producing better colours. The quirky 2048×1536 resolution makes developing or porting a game to the iPad 3 very tricky. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see many QXGA-compatible apps being developed these days.

Regardless, Microsoft has their work cut out for them, and while Windows 8 may turn out to be the best thing since sliced bread, it’s up to the hardware manufacturers to make sure that users enjoy the experience.