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article imageMicrosoft has 'surprises' coming for Windows 10's Live Tiles

By James Walker     Mar 28, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft's next Windows 10 update may include some substantial improvements to Start menu Live Tiles. The company has hinted at "surprises" on the way for the unique widgets, potentially incorporating interactive buttons within the tiles.
Microsoft first debuted its Live Tiles concept with Windows Phone 7. Since then, the tiles have become an essential component of Windows. In Windows 10, Live Tiles can be added to the Start menu, creating a dynamic, colourful wall of customisable content that can be processed in a single glance.
Microsoft is working on something new for the innovative interface. The company has its BUILD developer conference scheduled for this week in which it will reveal improvements coming to Windows 10 with the next major update.
One of the sessions scheduled is titled "What's New for Tiles and Toast Notifications," teasing a "powerful API" that will provide "innovative experiences for users" based around the Live Tiles concept. "Live Tiles are evolving with two highly-requested surprises that you won't want to miss," according to Microsoft. The company appears to be hinting at a major change to Tiles and Notifications that will be visible to users as an interface revision.
The "surprises" aren't detailed but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating on what may be on the way. Microsoft itself has explored different versions of Live Tiles in the past, focusing on further improving the "at-a-glance" nature of the colourful squares.
Live Tiles today are quite limited in terms of functionality. At best, a Live Tile displays small pieces of information from the app it represents, such as news headlines from a news reader or the first lines of a message in an email client. Some apps, such as Calculator, don't have a Live Tile at all, in which case the tile is just a static icon.
For almost as long as the concept has been around, fans have suggested ways Microsoft could expand on Tiles. One of the most popular ideas remains "Interactive" Live Tiles, a concept that would see Tiles incorporating buttons for user interaction.
In the case of Calculator, this could transform how people use the app. The large variant of the tile could include a functioning calculator, ready to use straight from the Start screen. Users wouldn't even need to open the app to add two numbers together.
This isn't just a wild fan theory. Microsoft actually has a working implementation of Interactive Live Tiles, demonstrated in a video by Microsoft Research over two years ago. The company has never unveiled anything publicly but Interactive Live Tiles clearly exist internally at Microsoft. It could be this that the company plans to unveil later this week.
The event description mentions a "new class of apps," implying developers will have more ways to work with tiles after the announcement. Microsoft is expected to announce several new features for Windows 10 at BUILD this week, revealing what will be coming to consumers in the next public update due in the summer. The company has previously said Windows 10 "Redstone" will "change everything" and make users "freak out" over new and as-yet unnamed features.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, Start, Start menu
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