Windows 8 is coming! Here's what is new
By Joseph D. Lienjdlien. Tuesday, April 5, 2011 7:09:05 PM
Most people are still using a ten-year old Windows XP, but Microsoft is working on the next version -- Windows 8. What will this update bring to the table?
It's a little early to say for certain, since the OS is only in closed testing right now, but early leaks have shown off a few interesting bits.
Internally, Microsoft calls this version "Windows Next" but it seems likely that the Windows 8 name will stick, despite the actual version of the OS being v6.2. (Windows 7 is v6.1, confusingly).
It appears that Windows 8 is visually distinctive, bringing it more in line with the looks of Windows Phone 7. For instance, the iconic Blue Screen of Death has been replaced with a new "black screen of death".
A user's profile picture will appear in the notification area. It's not certain how this is useful, but this may be related to the fact that Windows 8 will likely be more cloud-oriented, and support logins with Live ID accounts.
Driver installation progess is shown in the taskbar icon, much in the same way that, for instance, download progress is shown in Opera's taskbar icon in Windows 7. A nice change from simply not knowing what the heck is going on when you plug a device in.
Windows 8 also appears to be taking a cue from Apple and shipping with an app store that is accessible from within the OS to simplify finding, purchasing, and installing applications.
It remains to be seen if Microsoft intends to do something cool with its hotly-selling Kinect technology, such as provide head tracking features or integrated gestures, although that would be a suitable and very cool move.
One other interesting rumor has been that Windows 8 may drop built-in support for Firewire, which has seen a slowing down in the face of USB, and now faces further competition from Thunderbolt.
Perhaps the most exciting new features include an ability to completely reset Windows 8 to factory defaults in two minutes, and a streamlined installation process that will allow Windows 8 to install in around eight minutes -- massive boons to technicians or IT staff who have spend far too many hours of their lives babysitting Windows installs.
Given that Windows 7 was released just over a year ago, and has been pretty well received, what's the big hurry for Microsoft? In a word -- tablets. Historically, Windows ran on x86 CPUs from Intel and AMD, but with the massive influx of new tablets such as the iPad, virtually all of which are based on low-powered ARM processors (like the ones smartphones use), this will have to change. One of the biggest new features of Windows 8 is that it will support running on low-powered architectures so that Microsoft can get a foot in the door before Apple closes it completely.
It is thus expected that Windows 8 will build on the finger-friendly touch features present in Windows 7, for which Opera recently released a new Tablet version of Opera Mobile.
It is expected that Windows 8 will be released in early 2012, but Microsoft has been notorious in the past for delaying new releases, so don't hold your breath on any rumored release dates you hear.