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  • 9/6/2010

Windows 8: everything you need to know (Part 1)

win 8

How Windows 8 will try to compete with Android and Mac OS X

By Mary Branscombe

What we know about Windows 8 is still incomplete and unofficial - garnered from job postings, rumours and the slides allegedly leaked by a software engineer at HP responsible for OEM relations (available through the Italian Windows Ette site).

The slides include plenty of marketing ideas rather than technical details, they show that Microsoft has its eye on what Apple is doing to make its operating systems so popular and they declare themselves a work in progress.

Not only is every page marked 'this is not a plan of record' but the opening discussion includes the line "reality: there are currently more ideas than there is time to implement them". That's especially true if Windows 8 release date is as soon as we think it might be.


Windows 8 release date

Windows 8, say the slides, will be available "for the holiday" - but not which one.

There's a timeline that doesn't have many dates; the one suggesting that the coding would begin in June is suspect when some sources say the M1 (milestone 1 build) is already done and there's what we assume is a typo that we'd correct to say the third Forum (rather than the second) would be in July (there are several points where the slides are incomplete or confusing; for instance a pointed reference to "creating great Dell + Windows Experiences" in a deck that otherwise tips the hat - and appears to have been intended for - HP).

It puts the first beta of IE9 in August, along with the shipping date for Windows Live wave 4 which fits other rumours and positions them just after the third Forum.

That makes the forums three-to five months apart; assuming an average of four months - and assuming the chart is to scale and that the dates don't slip - that puts Windows 8 beta release date a little before March 2011 and Windows 8 RTM shortly after July 2011 (a date suggested on the blog of a now-ex Microsoft employee which you can find preserved, with the boxed version following in the autumn - for the holiday).

We've said before that we expect Windows 8 in late 2011 or early 2012 and we don't expect Microsoft to talk about a date until the Milestone 3 build, which would be around November 2010 by these calculations.

The fact that Microsoft hasn't announced whether the Professional Developers conference (usually held in November and used to preview new versions of the OS) will happen this year makes this a little less likely and it could all be some months later.

win 8

There are several statistics (typical RAM, network connected TVs, mobile broadband penetration and 4G deployment) that talk about the specs that will be common - in 2012.

Interestingly, the timeline shows Windows Live Wave 5 with a short development cycle that finishes before Windows 8; that matches suggestions that Live will offer more cloud services for Windows 8.

Windows 8 tablets are coming

The leaked slides are aimed at PC manufacturers who are interested in new form factors - and in getting a share of the iPad market - so it's no surprise one of the key PC form factors is a 9" slate (which Microsoft, having obviously got the point of all those iPad ads, is calling a Lap PC), optimised for web and media, casual gaming, reading and sorting email, IM and social networking.


LAP PC: Is that the HP slate? Using the Lap PC to read a magazine and play a driving game

Microsoft promises big improvements to the on-screen keyboard: it will be "easily launched, text prediction is more accurate, the UI is more usable, and throughput is increased for everyone".

There's also the workhorse PC (which is also referred to as a laptop, because Microsoft is only talking about consumers and not business users) and the family hub (an all-in-one touchscreen system that can go in the kitchen or the living room as a media centre) which is for casual gaming, web and media as well as more demanding apps like organising and manipulating media.

Key to making a successful Windows tablet is apps with user interfaces that change depending on the form factor (touch and gestures instead of keyboard and mouse), but Microsoft is also looking at stereoscopic 3D and high colour displays and natural input that uses touch, voice, 3D gestures ("on the horizon"), and facial recognition.

win 8

3D SUPPORT: Windows 8 will play 3D movies and games, but don't ask Microsoft to pick its favourite format yet

Optimising "for smaller screens" will help netbook users as well; Windows 7 gets key dialog boxes to fit on a small screen but not all apps do.

Another app store

More than 30 app stores have launched in the last year and Microsoft isn't the only company copying Apple here; Intel has its own app store for Atom PCs. PC makers like the idea - apparently at the first forum they commented that it "can't happen soon enough".

With an app store, Microsoft hopes to attract more of the type of developers who are currently building smartphone apps and it wants them to create apps that make Windows the best place to use web apps (a job advert last October claimed "we will blend the best of the web and the rich client by creating a new model for modern web applications to rock on Windows".)

According to the slides, "Currently the indication is that app development will move to the Web. There is significant opportunity for Microsoft if hardware capabilities, and OS services and Web could be integrated into a hobbyist developer toolset."

win 8

The 'tailored experiences' Microsoft talks about for Windows 8 sound like smartphone apps; the checklist includes fast installation and updates for engaging, social, extensible, ad-supported or 'freemium' apps.

If smartphone-style apps sound too simple to be worthwhile on Windows, Microsoft wants apps to be extensible so you can share information between them - perhaps using a mix of simple apps together. It sounds like the 'mashups' that we were all going to be making online until it turned out you'd have to learn to program.

The Windows Store will be branded and optimised for each PC manufacturer. Your settings will follow you from PC to PC, as will your apps (although some slides refer to this as a possibility rather than a definite plan) - but you'd need an HP ID to log into the 'HP Store powered by Windows' and get your HP-specific apps. Microsoft doesn't plan to make money from the store; the slides call it "revenue neutral".

To be continued ...

Source: techradar.com

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