Microsoft's Windows 8: What we learned this week

Microsoft trickled out a few new tidbits about Windows 8 during CES this week, in spite of not yet having beta bits to deliver.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft execs made a conscious decision (months ago, I hear) against making this week's Consumer Electronics Show a place to share key new Windows 8 bits or tidbits. That doesn't mean, however, that the Softies didn't discuss or debut any new Windows 8 features.

While CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote was almost entirely void of any new Windows 8 information, the Windows 8 brass did allow team members to demonstrate some relatively minor new things in Las Vegas. In the Microsoft booth on the show floor, Microsoft officials showed off Build No. 8175 -- considered by many company watchers to be a pre-beta build -- of Windows 8. (The actual beta build is due to go to the public by late February.)

While a few of the PC OEMs at the show, such as Lenovo and Kupa, talked up what they've got coming specifically for Windows 8, most of them predictably stressed that new ultrabooks, laptops and tablets that ship in the next few months will work great with Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Meanwhile, if you're still waiting for word as to what's coming on the Windows 8 ARM front, CES didn't deliver any answers at all this week. As far as I know, there was no new information shared (at least publicly) about features, dates, beta plans or anything else revealed about that version of Windows 8 this week. ASUS execs said publicly that they are expecting to have their first Windows 8 ARM tablet on store shelves before the end of calendar 2012, leading me to believe Microsoft's goal still is to release all versions of Windows 8 simultaneously, most likely this fall. But no Microsoft execs will go on the record saying that.

In spite of the information drought, there were a few trickles of new information on Windows 8 on Intel. Here's my best attempt to list of the new Windows 8-related technologies CES attendees saw this week -- courtesy of videos and blog posts from Neowin, The Verge and others covering the show remotely:

(If you want to see exactly what the Softies were demoing publicly regarding Windows 8 for all CES attendees -- and not just select members of the press -- Neowin has posted two videos from the Microsoft booth.)

In addition to the Windows 8 on ARM build, here are other new Windows 8 features that weren't shown publicly this week, but could (should?) be part of the Windows 8 beta:

Speaking of the .Net Framework and its Win32/WinRT cousins, there's been next-to-no new information from Microsoft for developers wrestling with trying to write apps for Windows 8 beyond the videos and some limited documentation that the company delivered around the time of last fall's Build conference. There's a new independent Web site dedicated to tracking WinRT-related articles and tweets, known as WinRTppl, that may be handy for those looking for the latest developer info around Windows 8.

There's still no word as to whether Microsoft is planning to hold some kind of Windows 8-specific developer conference this year. It's increasingly apparent there will be no Microsoft Mix show this spring, and there's no word as to whether Microsoft is planning to hold another Build conference in 2012.

Anyone hear/see other interesting Windows 8 information -- of potential interest to users and/or developers -- this week?

Editorial standards