After announcing plans of surpassing Apple in the Chinese market, Microsoft has taken another shot at the Cupertino-based tech titan by rivaling the new iPad's Retina display. If manufacturers hold their end of the bargain, Windows 8 tablets and hybrids will feature displays that rival, or even exceed, the new iPad's Retina display, Microsoft said.

In a comprehensive post on Microsoft's Building Windows 8 blog, David Washington, senior program manager for Microsoft's User Experience team, reveals some of the tricks the new OS will employ to handle various screen sizes.

Taking On the New iPad

Some might be curious about the new iPad screen. For this screen, Apple has chosen a scale factor of 200%. The new screen has twice the pixel density (132 PPI to 234 PPI) on the same size screen. Because iOS and developers only need to support the predefined resolutions, they only need to design for this one additional scaling factor. In the case of iPad 2 compared to new iPad the 200% scaling factor means that what you see on 1024×768 is exactly what you see on the new resolution, only sharper because more pixels are used. Additionally, on higher pixel-density screens like the new iPad, developers for games and other performance-critical apps may decide the right balance between letterboxing and running at a lower fidelity to deliver the best experience (frame rate, for example), reads Washington's blog post.

Predictable Scale Percentages

By increasing pixel density, the physical on-screen size of elements becomes smaller. While for big screens this is not an issue, it may become a real problem on smaller-screen systems controlled by finger taps, as elements would become too small to tap easily.

To address this issue, Microsoft recommends applying predictable scale percentages across three different types of display: 100 percent when no scaling is applied, 140 percent for 1920 x 1080 pixels HD tablets and 180 percent for quad-XGA, 2560 x 1440 pixels tablets. Applying such scale percentages accordingly will prevent elements from looking blurry when scaled up or down, and will maintain the size of the UI on high pixel density devices. In addition, the fonts and content will look crisper. These scaling values are designed to maintain the ideal touch target size consistent across various pixel densities.

Scaling without Blur

Windows 8 natively supports vector graphics images to make this scaling work, and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) or XAML art will ensure scaling without blur. Moreover, developers will have the option of saving three versions of images to correspond to each of the three recommended scale percentages.

(reported by Alexandra Burlacu, edited by Surojit Chatterjee)

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