What Will Windows 8 Be?

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Virtualisation, Windows

Now that we are about half way through the period between Windows 7 RTM and the next planned desktop OS release from Microsoft, and Windows just had its 25th birthday party, I thought it would be worthwhile reviewing what we know about the next version of Windows.

What we know so far about Windows 8 comes in the main from two separately leaked Microsoft slide decks on the subject. One from earlier in the year gave us a quite a detailed look (for this point of the development cycle) at the product planning lifecycle, user interface and identity, hardware considerations, efficiency (power), Help & Support, and an App Store!

[Disclaimer: The information that follows is based on slides that were leaked on to the Internet in June 2010, and it is not official Microsoft information. This information cannot be taken as record of fact, and no planning should be undertaken based on the information presented.]

The following slide shows the Microsoft approach to the product development lifecycle.

Here Microsoft describes some of the trends that are shaping their development efforts:

Microsoft seems to be targeting three main PC form factors for the next version of Windows. I doubt that we are going to see the demise of the common desktop any time soon, but it interesting to see where they think things are headed.

Power Efficiency

One of the areas that received a lot of focus in the slide deck was the idea of energy efficiency. Microsoft is apparently planning to build a new feature that combines Logoff and Hibernate to create in a new “off” state.  It will apparently give the look and feel of the current Windows 7 boot/shutdown, but will be much faster.

This will reportedly result in a faster start-up user experience:

Windows 8 Push Button Reset

This is a very interesting idea. Microsoft appears to be planning functionality for a “reset” button that will reinstall Windows while maintaining all of your personal files, applications, settings, etc. without the need for the user to back up their content. A scenario is presented in one of the leaked slides to demonstrate how it would work.

1 – Jon notices that his Windows 8 PC is starting to perform poorly and he can’t figure out what to do. He presses the reset button and chooses to reset his Windows 8 PC.

2 – Wanting a fresh start, he chooses to reset his PC knowing that all his personal content is safe.

3 – Windows 8 automatically retains his files and personalisation settings, and migrates the user account(s).

4 – Windows 8 is restored to the factory image and restarts.

5 – After restarting, Jon can launch the Microsoft App Store to reinstall applications he purchased there, and see a list of other applications that he had installed outside of the App Store.

It’s a nice scenario, and one that all Windows users can relate to – that need to ‘get back to a fresh start for Windows’. I hope this feature eventually makes it into Windows 8 so we can make use of it in the field. I imagine it will be great in a Help Desk support scenario.

Microsoft Application Store

The user Windows reset scenario introduced the idea of the Microsoft Application Store. This is one of the features that created the most noise on the Internet when these slides were leaked. It’s like a feature that everyone has been waiting for, now that we are all used to the application store built in to all our smartphones and the Apple infrastructure.

It will be an application store which will allow you to purchase applications for Windows (and perhaps Microsoft mobile devices as well, such as Windows Phone, Zune HD, etc.). Microsoft has a solid foundation for this already, and as the slides below note, they’re anxious to bring this to fruition ASAP.

Microsoft defines Windows Store’s success for consumers as, “getting applications they want, that they can feel confident in, that they can use on any Windows 8 device.”

Interesting points of the Windows Store include:

  • User can hold $$$ credit in the store
  • A user gets a unified view of their application purchases across multiple devices and user accounts (Live IDs)
  • Customer Support processes can be accessed via the store
  • Application settings can follow a user between devices
  • There will be an eco-system built up around the store, including partner-branded experiences

The typical ‘Submit Application to the Store’ process that developers have become accustomed to with the mobile application stores seems to be the model Microsoft are planning for the Windows Store.

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