What I expect from Windows 8

What I expect from Windows 8

Summary: On Tuesday morning, Microsoft will offer the first extended public demonstration of Windows 8. Will there be any surprises in that demo? Here's what I expect to see.

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Of all the differences between Microsoft and Apple, the biggest one is this: Microsoft does much of its development in public. Because of its partner model, it can't cloak its projects in complete secrecy and spring big surprises the way Apple can. The broad outlines are there for all to see, if you know where to look. Many of the specifics are there, too, delivered at developer and partner conferences where the audiences need details to plan for their next generation of products.

While it's intriguing to obsessively analyze screen shots and videos and slide decks, they're almost a distraction. You don't need a bootleg copy of an early Windows 8 build to figure out what's coming next. All you need is the ability to identify the big themes and connect a few dots.

On Tuesday morning, September 13, at 9AM Pacific Time, someone from Microsoft—almost certainly Steven Sinofsky—will take the stage at Microsoft’s BUILD conference in Anaheim for the opening keynote and will offer the first extended public demonstration of Windows 8.

I expect very few real surprises in that demo. Oh, sure, there will be interesting and unexpected details, but the broad themes and the big picture have been out there for months, even years.

I have no inside knowledge of Windows 8—I haven’t seen it yet, except in the same video clips you have, and I haven’t been briefed on it by anyone inside or outside Microsoft. But I can say with certainty that this will be a major release, with a long list of noteworthy changes.

Windows 7 accomplished its goal for Microsoft, cleaning up the Vista mess and reestablishing Microsoft’s reputation to deliver a well-engineered software release on a predictable schedule. With Vista in the rear-view mirror, Microsoft can concentrate on fundamental improvements in performance, reliability, and the user interface.

We have already had a few sneak peeks at Windows 8 and can list some of the obvious changes:

  • The new OS will run on x86 systems as well as new designs based on ARM processors. Its system requirements will be equal to or lower than those of Windows 7.
  • It will have a new Start screen, designed to work equally well with a touch screen or a mouse and based on the same Metro design principles used on Windows Phone 7 devices.
  • A new generation of full-screen apps (based on HTML5) will be especially suited for tablet devices.
  • The traditional Windows desktop, with support for all the programs you can use today on Windows 7, will be available as a full-screen app, with the capability to switch from the desktop to a full-screen app with a gesture.
  • Internet Explorer 10 will be part of Windows 8, and the Trident rendering engine will be at the heart of the new Start screen and app model.
  • The ribbon will be a key part of the interface for Windows Explorer and other utilities that run on the traditional Windows desktop.
  • There will be a new, Microsoft-managed App Store.

And that’s just what’s been publicly discussed so far. I expect to see a lot of changes aimed at reducing the friction that makes managing a Windows PC annoying and occasionally painful. Finding and installing drivers, migrating data and settings to a new PC, backing up data ... these are all, in Microsoft's jargon, pain points.

Back in 2008, at an equivalent stage in the development process for Windows 7, Sinofsky devoted one of his first posts on the E7 blog to an entry titled “Measuring the scale of a release.”

The magnitude of a release is as much about your perspective on the features as it is about the features themselves. One could even ask if being declared a major release is a compliment or not.

What followed was a typically thorough discussion of the all the constituencies that have a stake in a new Windows release—end users, developers, partners, IT professionals, and influentials. Reading that post today is like going through a checklist for Windows 8. New APIs and capabilities to take advantage of in software? Check. Lots of change in the hardware ecosystem? Certainly. Under-the-hood changes and a new UI? Yep.

On the Building Windows 8 blog last month, Sinofsky wrote:

We started planning Windows 8 during the summer of 2009 (before Windows 7 shipped). the start, our approach has been to reimagine Windows, and to be open to revisiting even the most basic elements of the user model, the platform and APIs, and the architectures we support. Our goal was a no compromise design.

[…]

We are certain that as we show you more in the coming months you will see just how deeply we have reimagined Windows.

That sounds like a major release to me.

As for the schedule, I expect it to follow the same basic timeframe as Microsoft followed with Windows 7. For that version, Microsoft had an unveiling at its developers conference in late October, with a beta in January, a release candidate in April, a final release to manufacturing in July, and a public launch in October. Those are quarterly milestones, and they reflect the engineering process that the Windows team continues to use today.

It took almost exactly a year for Windows 7 to go from a developers’ preview to general availability. If Microsoft follows that same schedule, as I expect they will, we should see a final release of Windows 8 in mid-September 2012. A lot can happen between now and then, of course, but those are the dates to bet on.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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139 comments
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  • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

    I have no faith in Win.<br>We've followed like sheep<br>To expect pain in<br>PCs and its upkeep.<br><br>I have no trust in MicroSoft.<br>Insecure, unreliable, and prone<br>To a myriad hacks quite oft,<br>No responsibility have they shown.<br><br>The OS tail continues to wag<br>The PC dog, with no shame.<br>Machines and apps choke and gag;<br>No, "Win 8 wasn't my idea," I dare proclaim.
    slownewsday
    • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

      @slownewsday
      Windows is the most secure os and windows 8 is to be the most secure os ever. This is not from microsoft. Years of hackers have made microsoft the best at that game. Go read a book and learn something before you get on here and look like a fool!
      imsimsj
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        @imsimsj
        Yes, please do recommend me a book which teaches me how Windows is "the most secure". I would very much like to learn and be less of a fool.
        slownewsday
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        @imsimsj if what you say is true, why is it that MS machines are the ones most likely to be running some bot virus?
        Al_nyc
      • Puh! I'd like to see ya...

        @imsimsj bust in to my Linux system! Want me to post my IP? It's you who is the fool, Windows is purposely swiss cheese to allow access by them and their partners to spam and spy on you, wake up! It's been that way for years!
        tek_heretik
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        @tek_heretik <br><br>There is Wiretap laws idiot. Not to mention that data mining would be a nightmare to sort through and the fact that Microsoft would be sued for privacy violations. Grow a brain dummy.<br><br>@Al_nyc<br><br>The reason there is botnets on Windows is because people are running pirated trojaned copies of Windows. If they'd actually pay for it they'd have a clean system.
        NTNerd208
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        @NTNerd208 I very much enjoy reading insults about people's intelligence coming from people who can't seem to use the English language properly. It's always good for a laugh. As is your assertion that only pirated Windows get hacked.
        DarkPhoenixFF4
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        @imsimsj How horrifically ironic. You respond to someone who offers us a poem [that fool flagged btw], by recommending he reads a book?? All we need to know about MS drones is embodied in this single dumb act. How sad. Okay, flag this:

        'The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that... they don't think of original ideas, and they don't bring much culture into their products. And you say: "Why is that important?" Well proportionally spaced fonts come from typesetting in beautiful books - that's where one gets the idea. If it weren't for the Mac the would never have that in their products. And so I guess I'm saddened, not by Microsoft's success ??? I have no problem with their success. They've earned their success... for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third-rate products.'

        Steve Jobs 1996
        Graham Ellison
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        @imsimsj
        You MUST be on the Microsoft payroll!
        When a new operating system comes out that does not support "joe-average-guy," they show their utter contempt for us. I have at least 30 programs that will not work in Windows 7. I have to BUY the professional version to run them. That's just the plain old "do what we say or else" attitude they have. If I had an alternative that would allow me to run my "Tomb Raiders" game, I'd jump in a heart-beat.
        frankcoleman@...
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        @imsimsj What he's trying to say is something people have a hard time inderstanding. And when there's one plague affecting these systems, they tend to cause a big destruction as well they do in Windows.

        Unix-based systems tend to be secure, of course! Mac OS X is secure and Linux are secure but there are known security flaws in both.

        With Windows' market share, abou every cracker in the world targets Windows. They work to find security flaws and how to explore these flaws because the majority of the PCs use Windows these days.

        If crackers worked so hard to find security flaws in Linux and OS X you'd be sure they wouldn't be even near "secure".

        Proof? Android is the most succetible mobile OS to malware. And it's Linux-based.
        andrebrait
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        Mobile is what? 5% of internet traffic? Mobile is nothing.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • Huh?!?!

        @imsimsj " Years of hackers have made microsoft the best at that game. "

        This comment takes "It's not a bug, it's a feature" to a whole new level.

        Or maybe the argument is "By allowing our users to suffer years of security breaches, MS has finally learned to get security right. Thanks for being our unwilling guinea pigs."

        MS fanbois never cease to amuse, or at least to confound.
        spincitysd@...
      • Android

        @andrebrait

        Android is full of security holes because Google released a half-baked OS into the wild. It then added insult to injury by letting any goober release apps into its store. It is not hard to release malware when you have the option to build it ground up. No OS can be secure when you leave the front door open for any coder who wanders by.

        With Android, it is not the OS that is the security problem; it is the fact that the very programs (the Apps) are evil from the ground up.
        spincitysd@...
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        @imsimsj Windows 8 itself is a surprised. It is another thing that people with special skills can't see it.
        iqbaal
      • amen

        @imsimsj you are wise ...
        tujais
      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

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      • RE: What I expect from Windows 8

        @tek_heretik

        You say: <i>"Puh! I'd like to see ya...
        @imsimsj bust in to my Linux system! Want me to post my IP? It's you who is the fool, Windows is purposely swiss cheese to allow access by them and their partners to spam and spy on you, wake up! It's been that way for years!"</i>

        Go ahead, post your IP, but before you do bypass your cable modem/router and wire directly to the internet. Give me direct access to your non-Windows OS without hiding behind a NAT'ed firewall, I dare you...
        smtp4me@...