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How Windows 8 Live Tiles work without impacting performance and battery life

In yet another Building Windows 8 blog post, we learn about Windows 8’s new live tile feature and how it is optimized to use less resources and consume very little battery power. In essence, the live tiles are super efficient and provide real time notifications.

In order to utilize a system where hundreds of app tiles are to be alive with activity, while not degrading system performance, Microsoft set its goals on meeting these key concepts:

  • Allow hundreds of live tiles without degrading performance
  • Go beyond balloons, badges and text, with beautiful images
  • Make it easy for developers so they can just “fire and forget”
  • Achieve real-time delivery so delivering “instant messages” is instant

Microsoft decided to build a data-driven model that prevents any app code from running in the background. “Our solution was to build a data-driven model. This means that a developer can express their tile using a set of predefined properties and templates, in this case, using an XML schema. The XML tile data is then sent to the Windows Push Notification Service (WNS) via a simple HTTP POST and then we take care of the rest. All the code for connecting, retrying, authentication, caching, rendering, error handling, etc. is done in a uniform and power-efficient way,” Microsoft stated.

Microsoft decided to introduce a more push-based service, rather than a polling mechanism (used in Windows Vista for desktop Gadgets and system tray notifications). This allows for “super-efficient real-time notifications.”

Microsoft has also added metrics into the new Task Manager in Windows 8 to allow users to keep track of how much bandwidth is being used for each tile.

“Every design decision we made was viewed through the lens of performance and battery life efficiency. To make it easy for app developers to participate, we built the Windows Push Notifications Service so they could create live tiles without having to write complicated network connectivity code. And because WNS uses standard web technologies, such as HTTP POST, it’s easy for developers to integrate notifications based on their existing web services. The result is a notifications platform that delivers at-a-glance information while allowing you to install as many apps as you want without worrying about the impact on performance or battery life,” Microsoft concludes.

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