Leaked pics show new Windows 8 interface

Microsoft’s released a preview build of Windows 8 to some of its partners – and several of those partners have helpfully released it to the press, revealing a new ribbon interface.

The ribbon is similar to that used previously in Microsoft Office, and replaces drop-down menus with a tabbed toolbar at the top of the page. Some people will love it for its clarity; others may object that it takes up an awful lot of space.

The inclusion of the ribbon may be a nod to the growing popularity of tablet PCs with their touch-based interface – Microsoft’s already confirmed that Windows 8 will run on tablets.

And according to the Within Windows site, tablet users will be able to log on using a pattern, in much the same way as Android users can now.

It adds that Microsoft is also planning to support extensible Welcome Screen-based audio controls, allowing users to control music playback while the machine is locked.

Obviously, the interface is in the early stages of development, and in theory the ribbon might not make it through to the final build. But it’s hardly an experiment for the company, indicating that it wouldn’t have made an appearance in the preview version unless Microsoft was pretty definite about using it.

Also spotted is a new Welcome screen similar to the Metro design used in Zone and Windows Phone. It appears to show the time, day of the week and date, along with icons for power management and ease of access.

There’s no date yet for the release of Windows 8, but the smart money’s on early next year.