Windows 8 Features

Windows 8 is the upcoming version of Microsoft Windows that follows Windows 7. It features a new Metro-style interface that is designed for touchscreen, mouse, keyboard, and pen input. It also adds support for the ARM processor architecture in addition to the previously supported x86 microprocessors from Intel and AMD. Its server counterpart is codenamed Windows Server 8. A release date for the finished version of Windows 8 has not yet been announced. The most recent pre-release version is the Consumer Preview, which was released on February 29, 2012.


Early announcements

In January 2011, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Microsoft announced that Windows 8 would be adding support for ARM microprocessors in addition to the x86 microprocessors from Intel, AMD and VIA.
On June 1, 2011, Microsoft officially unveiled Windows 8 and some of its new features at the Taipei Computex 2011 in Taipei (Taiwan) by Mike Angiulo and at the D9 conference in California (United States) by Julie Larson-Green and Microsoft's Windows President Steven Sinofsky. The main feature that was shown was the new user interface.
On August 15, 2011, Microsoft opened a new blog called "Building Windows 8" for users and developers.

Milestone leaks

  1. A 32-bit Milestone 1 build, build 7850, with a build date of September 22, 2010, was leaked to BetaArchive, an online beta community, and to P2P/torrent sharing networks as well on April 12, 2011. Milestone 1 includes a ribbon interface for Windows Explorer, a PDF reader called Modern Reader, an updated task manager called Modern Task Manager, and native ISO image mounting.
  2. A 32-bit Milestone 2 build, build 7927, was leaked to The Pirate Bay on August 29, 2011 right after many pictures leaked on BetaArchive the day before. Features of this build are mostly the same as build 7955.
  3. A 32-bit Milestone 2 build, build 7955, was leaked to BetaArchive on April 25, 2011. Features of this build included a new pattern login and a new file system known as Protogon, which is now known as ReFS and only included in server versions.
  4. A Milestone 3 build, build 7971, was released to close partners of Microsoft on March 29, 2011 but was kept under heavy security. However, a few screenshots were leaked. The "Windows 7 Basic" theme now uses similar metrics to the Aero style, but maintains its non-hardware accelerated design, and also supports taskbar thumbnails. The boxes that encase the "close, maximize, and minimize" buttons have been removed, leaving just the signs.
  5. A 64-bit Milestone 3 build, build 7989, leaked to Win7vista on June 18, 2011 after screenshots were revealed on MDL (My Digital Life) forums. An SMS feature, a new virtual keyboard, a new bootscreen, transparency in the basic theme, geo-location services, Hyper-V 3.0, and PowerShell 3.0 were revealed in this build.

Developer preview and BUILD conference

Microsoft unveiled new Windows 8 features and improvements on September 13, 2011, day one of the BUILD developer conference. Microsoft also released a developer preview (build 8102) of Windows 8 for the developer community to download and start working with. This developer preview includes tools for building "metro style apps", such as Microsoft Windows SDK for Metro style applications, Microsoft Visual Studio 11 Express for Windows 8 Developer Preview and Microsoft Expression Blend 5 developer preview. According to Microsoft, there were more than 500,000 downloads of the developer preview within the first 12 hours of its release. The Developer Preview introduced the Start screen. The Start button opens the Start screen instead of the Start menu in this build.
On 16 February 2012, Microsoft postponed the expiration date of the developer preview. Originally set to expire on 11 March 2012, this release is now set to expire on 15 January 2013.

Consumer Preview

On 29 February 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8 Consumer Preview, the beta version of Windows 8, build 8250. For the first time since Windows 95, the Start button is no longer available on the taskbar, though the Start screen is still triggered by clicking the bottom-left corner of the screen and by clicking Start in the Charm. Windows president Steven Sinofsky said more than 100,000 changes had been made since the developer version went public. In the first day of its release, Windows 8 Consumer Preview was downloaded over one million times.

Windows 8 New features

Metro UI

Windows 8 will employ a new user interface based on Microsoft's Metro design language. The Metro environment will feature a new tile-based Start screen similar to the Windows Phone operating system. Each tile will represent an application, and will be able to display relevant information such as the number of unread messages on the tile for an e-mail app or the current temperature on a weather application. Metro-style applications run in full-screen, and are able to share information between each other using "contracts". They will be available through the new Windows Store. Metro-style apps are developed with the new Windows Runtime platform using various programming languages, including C++, Visual Basic, C#, and HTML/JavaScript.
The traditional desktop environment, for running desktop applications, is treated as a Metro app. The Start button has been removed from the taskbar in favor of a Start button on the new charm bar, as well as a hotspot in the bottom-left corner. Both open the new Start screen, which replaces the Start menu.

Other features

  1. Internet Explorer 10 will be included both as a Metro-style app, which will not support plugins or ActiveX components, and a desktop version which resembles Internet Explorer 9 and will maintain legacy plug-in support.
  2. Ability to sign in using a Windows Live ID. This will allow for the user's profile and setting to be synchronized over the internet and accessible from other computers running Windows 8, as well as integration with SkyDrive.
  3. Two new authentication methods: picture password, which allows users to log in by drawing three gestures in different places on a picture, and PIN log in, which allows users to authenticate using a four digit pin.
  4. Windows Explorer will include a ribbon toolbar, and have its file operation progress dialog updated to provide more detailed statistics, the ability to pause file transfers, and improvements in the ability to manage conflicts when copying files.
  5. Hybrid Boot will use "advanced hibernation functionality" on shutdown to allow faster startup times.
  6. Windows To Go will allow Windows 8 to be run from a bootable USB device (such as a flash drive).
  7. Two new recovery functions are included, Refresh and Reset. Refresh restores all Windows files to their original state while keeping settings, files, and Metro-Style apps, while reset takes the computer back to factory default condition.
  8. Native USB 3.0 support
  9. A new lock screen

Secure boot

Secure boot is a controversial UEFI-based feature to "prevent unauthorized firmware, operating systems, or UEFI drivers from running at boot time".
Microsoft will require new PCs to have the UEFI secure boot feature enabled by default to be given Windows 8 certification. Microsoft requires that manufacturers must offer the ability to turn off the secure boot feature on x86 hardware, but they must not offer such an option on ARM hardware.

Effects on the use of other operating systems

In September 2011, Matthew Garrett, a Red Hat developer, raised the possible risk of Microsoft locking out alternative systems, leading to media coverage. Microsoft addressed the issue in a blog post, stating "the customer is in control of their PC. Microsoft’s philosophy is to provide customers with the best experience first, and allow them to make decisions themselves" which was largely interpreted that they would allow OEM manufacturers to choose whether to allow users to disable the feature or not, however in January 2012, the company reversed their position and revealed ARM manufacturers must not allow Secure Boot to be disabled, causing concerns, particularly in the Linux community.
Canonical and Red Hat, two of the biggest companies involved with Linux, released a whitepaper regarding the issue, recommending that "PCs include a User Interface to easily enable or disable Secure Boot".
In reaction to the situation, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, writing for ZDNet, suggested Microsoft is locking out other systems for vendor lock-in reasons, among other hypotheses. Glyn Moody Writing for PCWorld, noted "The concern here, of course, is that Microsoft's approach seems to be making it hard if not impossible to install GNU/Linux on hardware systems certified for Windows 8." Thom Holwerda, writing for OSnews, a website dedicated to alternative operating systems, argued "This effectively makes it impossible to boot anything but Windows 8 on these ARM devices" adding that secure boot has the effect of "rendering these devices entirely useless as general computing devices" The FSF also criticized the decision, saying "Microsoft has pushed its power grab even further on ARM computers".


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