What We Know: Windows 8

Image result for Windows 8Throughout this year and the tail end of last, rumors have occasionally leaked about supposed features from Windows 8 (or Midori, depending on who you talk to). These can get pretty hard to keep track of, so I’ve decided to compile them in a single article for your reading pleasure.
Windows 8 will come out in 2012.
One of the first rumors about 8 leaked late year in the form of an allegedly official product roadmap from Microsoft. The image contained release dates going all the way back to 2003, and all the way forward to a major release in “~2012″. The product in question? Windows 8, of course.
I would take this date with a grain of salt; if Microsoft’s employees are to be believed, 8 may be too big of a release to be completed in a measly three years. One employee said this summer that 8 was “completely different” and would “change the way we use computers”. If that’s true, I find it a little hard to believe that they’d be ready to release it in just three years after 7. I could be wrong, of course, but don’t invest too heavily in this one.
Windows 8 will support 128-bit processors.
This rumor is just ridiculous given how far forward 64-bit processors extend; the interface can support up to 4 petabytes (about 4 million gigabytes) of RAM. As a point of reference, the typical $5-$600 desktop computer at Best Buy has 4-8GB RAM. We’re nowhere near needing support for that much memory, and we won’t be for a decade or three. It’s silly to think Microsoft would implement 128-bit support this early in the game.
Windows 8 will run on ARM processors.
This is definitely plausible. Earlier this year, Microsoft bought an ARM license that allows them to develop software (or hardware) for ARM-based chips. Early speculators thought this could mean a Microsoft-branded Windows Phone or possibly a Zune HD refresh; new rumors from The Wall Street Journal suggest that the software giant could be porting a full-fledged version of Windows 7 (and 8) to run on ARM processors. The fact that Microsoft is gearing Windows 8 toward tablets lends even more credence to this rumor.
Windows 8 will be built for tablets.
This one isn’t a rumor, per se. Steve Ballmer said that tablets will continue to use Windows as their primary OS. Tablets are exactly why Microsoft needs to release 8 as soon as possible; with the iPad threatening to begin eating at their bottom line, they need to put out an OS that can seriously contend with Apple’s ‘Pad (no, 7 doesn’t count).
PowerPoints leaked this summer also reported there would be several form factors 8 would be geared toward, tablets being among them. A more recent rumor also said the OS would include an intuitive new 3D interface for 64-bit versions of Windows. This could be the interface for the tablet version, but it seems odd that a tablet would need a 64-bit OS.
Windows 8 will be faster than 7.
Now here’s a rumor we can sink our teeth into. In early 2010 Microsoft Careers posted a job listing for a design engineer that could help them “make future releases of Windows faster, smaller, and more responsive than Windows 7.” This is a particularly exciting rumor, but a very understandable one-not only because people just love performance, but also because tablets are such a massive focus for Microsoft right now.
Another slide leaked a few months later also mentioned that Windows 8 would continue where 7 left off in terms of boot time, shutdown time, and battery life. They also want to improve the time it takes to get to your home page, or to receive your first email. These things are important to both consumers and enterprise users, so it makes sense that they would include this in their plans.
Another feature that could boost 8′s performance (or the illusion thereof ) can be found in a patent Microsoft recently applied for called “Direct Experience Platform”. Essentially, this would allow the user to circumvent the process of booting into Windows and take them directly into some sort of media environment (see: iTunes, Zune).
If Microsoft can release an OS that’s as revolutionary and different as its employees suggest while maintaining performance and battery life, they could have a massive success on their hands.
Windows 8 will include “PC My Way”.
“PC My Way” is a technology Microsoft hopes to include in 8 that would make using a computer much more convenient. There were two scenarios mentioned in the PowerPoint; the first showed a gaming session in which the player was interrupted, and the second detailed someone reading an online magazine or newspaper.
In the first scene, the player left the computer without pausing the game (strange, eh?). Instead of Windows letting the zombies (or aliens, or whatever) ruin that person’s gaming experience, it paused the game without any user intervention. That’s pretty cool.
The second scene wasn’t as action-y. Basically, Microsoft just outlined that Windows could activate different features depending on what kind of program the user was interacting with. This only makes sense since they’re aiming to put 8 on so many different form factors and devices. Computers will finally start to adapt to us if they can pull this off.
Windows 8 will support facial recognition and new forms of logging in.
This one is plausible, especially given the recent launch of the Kinect. The rumor began after a set of slides detailing a few new features planned for 8 was leaked. In it, there was some interesting new features like cloud backups of application settings. Of course, some of the most evident for the end users would be facial recognition and proximity login; in other words, using the webcam (or a Kinect-style peripheral) to login using facial features.
There was also a slide detailing another style of logging in-proximity sensors. Basically, the slide showed how a person’s PC would wake up or turn on whenever they entered the room or got close to the computer. The slide also called out infrared sensors-the same kind used to judge distance on the Kinect. It only makes sense that Microsoft would try to push Kinect beyond just the Xbox; after all, modders have already shown how powerful of a tool it can be.
Regardless of what kind of peripheral it ends up using, this would be a really helpful and (dare I say it?) fun feature.
Windows 8 settings will follow you.
One of the more interesting and useful rumors about Windows 8 details methods that settings could follow users around. Not only would the operating system’s preferences be synced, but Microsoft wants to allow programs and media to be able to be synced as well.
Mary-Jo Foley also found evidence that apparently showed “desktop as a service” being included in 8. Essentially, that means that applications, settings, and user data would all be able to follow you between devices, regardless of where they were installed first.
The media part of the leak is the most interesting to me, though. In addition to having movies and music sync across multiple devices, they also want to save your place in moves as well. That would be a really great feature for on-the-go people, and would be incredibly convenient for anybody with multiple devices. This is definitely something Microsoft could push along with the rest of the cloud integration they seem to planning for the OS’ launch.
Windows 8 will make it easier to fix problems.
According to the same leaked slides mentioned in the last rumor, Windows 8 will include better way to reset Windows to the way it came on your computer. As of now, that’s not a very easy thing to do, and it’s definitely not something end-users are comfortable doing. This isn’t a very interesting rumor until you get to the heart of it; resetting your computer will save all your personal files, settings, and programs. Wow. That would certainly be a welcome change from the current method of resetting Windows.
Windows 8 will be cloudy.
Leaks from RumorPedia indicate that Microsoft is going to start to take the cloud seriously with the release of Windows 8; serious enough that they may even integrate the kernel with files from the cloud. This is interesting, because it would allow Windows to install critical updates and update core files without the need for the user to reboot their computer. It would also allow Microsoft to track and find pirated copy of the OS more easily, something that would be a win-win for everyone.
Another job listing also indicated that the company may offer backups for users’ systems in the cloud. This would apparently be tightly linked to their enterprise-level Azure system. I’m not so sure about backups in the cloud given how much people store on their systems, but there’s also the possibility that this is one of the methods Microsoft will employ to allow the resert-to-factory feature I mentioned earlier.
As you can see, Microsoft is gearing Windows 8 to be a major and revolutionary release, and judging from the leaks, it may just change the way we use computers.

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