If you wondered how much personalisation can be done within the Start Menu in Windows 8, it now goes beyond solid colours, basic shapes and customisable Live Tiles. In the leaked RTM versions of Windows 8 there are now customisable backgrounds that look like they’re done by thesame artists who created the zany character backgrounds in Windows 7. They actually look really cute, if I do say so myself.
The backgrounds come in various designs and with varying themes, but you won’t be able to access them until the OS is activated with a valid license. The background images are static but move across the screen if you’re using a monitor with a smaller resolution, similar to the way Android and Nokia handle wallpapers across their multiple homescreens. You can edit the colours a bit more and change the main background colour, allowing for some unique combinations and possible even ones that can be created and distributed through the Microsoft store for free or for a reasonable price. I can see a big opportunity already in there for people to have some of their favourite brands and logos as a barkground, or possibly even a picture of some sort, so long as the resolution matches. That’s a space that might be worth watching if you’re considering the move to Windows 8.
In other news, Intel has gone ahead and launched their SDK for Windows 8 for two APIs that it thinks developers will aim for. The Intel Media 212 R3 SDK supports DirectX 11 and allows for optimised access to GPU-accelerated encoding, decoding and transcoding for applications that need to use the integrated GPU in Intel’s third-generation Core processor family. Its likely that this might also give developers widespread access to Quicksync, something that’s been severely lacking in support since the hardware release a year ago in Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7 processors.
The other SDK is Intel’s SDK for OpenCL Applications 2013 Beta. Now hold on just a damn minute, didn’t AMD promise support for the same thing? It looks like Intel realised how powerful OpenCL would become on the right hardware and platform and subsequently created their own SDK for their processor lineup. The Beta, now in its second version, now supports OpenCL 1.2 API previews on CPU and other features such as a new kernel builder and GNU project debugger, which ease the creation of parallel and visual computing apps. It supports the SDK being run and debugged on all Intel HD graphics, which means that OpenCL support could possibly arrive for all processors with built-in graphics in the Intel camp.
That strikes up an interesting question – how does AMD want to support OpenCL in future? Will it allow the software to solely work on their APU and Brazos lineup, or will they extend the open-ended API to support their CPUs paired with an AMD graphics card? Remember, Nvidia resolutely sticks the finger to anyone who wants to use GPU acceleration on their cards without supporting CUDA, so AMD’s only options are their own processors with their own graphics cards – that makes it a tough sell when Intel’s Quicksync has already been shown to be massively faster and better than most options out there today.
In the end, it bodes well for the kind of hardware support we can expect from the new kernel and software present in Windows 8. I’ve already said that, purely in desktop mode and from a performance point of view, that Windows 8 is worth the upgrade. It looks like it might usher in a new era of apps that take advantage of the best and latest hardware features available.