Windows 8 To Bring High Resolution Screen Devices To The PC Market
If there’s one thing that is inspiring a lot of vendors right now, it is a certain high resolution display toting device that has a pixel density (PPI or Pixels Per Inch) that matches the limit of the human eye. This has triggered a chain reaction where manufacturers are trying to come up with displays that not only have higher resolutions but go beyond the boring 72-96PPI range and venture in to densities that range from over 100 to nearly 300 PPI.
As a result, Windows 8 would have to scale not only in terms of resolution but also in terms of pixel density. So on the same 10inch screen, it might have to fit in many times more pixels than the basic 96 PPI. Microsoft takes to their Building Windows 8 blog in order to explain how they have achieved this feat and how they intend to make sure that they are competitive with the iPad’s (and the iPhone’s) retina display.
High Pixel Density Along With High Resolution Is Not New In Windows
Windows, like any other modern OS, has always been capable of display more pixels per inch at a given resolution. Since most displays have been using about 96PPI, higher resolutions have not usually been a problem because the screen size would increase with the resolution (because the pixel density is constant) and the elements on screen would remain perfectly readable.
But then came the situation where the same screen size now has higher resolution because of great pixel density. So a 20pixel onscreen element that was perfectly legible on a 96ppi screen, would become very difficult to decipher on a 200ppi screen. Thankfully, Windows has had a way of countering this by increasing the pixel density of the whole OS so that you don’t have to squint to do your regular work.
But it has had its problems because some applications would not draw right with a new pixel density. And some elements or applications would simply become too big and go off screen or behind the taskbar. Result — most users would accept that at 96ppi, things would be slightly small but still usable if you don’t scale them. And since you are using a mouse, your system it still quite usable.
Switch over to touch and this escalates from a minor annoyance to a huge problem. Everything has to be nice and well defined and of a goodly size to be usable. This is a problem that touch device users frequently face on websites and it is not going to go away because higher pixel density is not becoming mainstream.
Metro To Scale Smoothly On High Pixel Density And Resolution Minus Hiccups
So when it came to Windows 8, Microsoft had to find a solution to this and that is what they have done on the Metro side of Windows 8. Microsoft is already anticipating displays that match Apple’s Retina Display. In their illustration of the common screen sizes, there’s a 10.1” screen that has a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels, making the density around 291ppi. The same resolution on a 11.6” device would have 253ppi.
As you can already see, these densities are a far cry from the 72-96ppi that we are used to. On common laptop screens, the densities will remain higher than the current average at around 125-157ppi.
Since Metro was designed from ground up to be extremely scalable, designing apps that scale across all screens is much easier. One of the ways this has been done is by limiting the minimum size to 1024×768 and a widescreen minimum of 1366×768. Snapped view will always be exactly 320 pixels wide. And the apps have resizing limitations as well. They will always maintain an aspect ratio of 16:9 or 4:3 depending on the screen. With all these rules in place, the number of possible situations where an app will have to adapt becomes manageable and quite predictable.
Scaling has also been limited to either 140% or 180%, which seems random at first but this will allow 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 screens to display content that are apparently the same size as 1366×768 but much sharper.
Apple Retina Display Matching Screens To Be Common On Windows 8, Says Microsoft
Microsoft mentioned that resolutions of 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 on 10inch and 11inch screens will be quite common on Windows 8 tablets, hinting at the fact that they will take on the newest iPad head on; at least as far as the display is concerned. Windows 8 will be intelligent enough to scale automatically to fit the screen.
The apps on Windows 8 Metro work on a system that automatically scales them to fit the screen. Developers will be required build scaling support right in and some of the elements will be automatically scaled by the system.