Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Windows 8: What We Know So Far

PCMag.Com - For over a year, Windows 8, the next big Microsoft desktop OS, was shrouded in mystery, with rumors and purported “leaks” popping up here and there, later to be soundly debunked. One supposed “Windows 8″ build was a hacker’s mildly tweaked Windows 7 Enterprise Edition, with a few interface changes and a laughable message on the desktop “Shhhh, let’s not leak our hard work!”

All indicators point to Windows 8 being a huge change from its predecessors. While Windows 7 was a tightening, speeding up, and interface-improving of Windows Vista, Windows 8 promises to radically change the operating system—even beyond anything the leaks and rumors hinted at.

Microsoft took the world by storm when it demonstrated an early build of the nascent operating system simultaneously at the Computex and D9 conferences this past spring. At these events, Microsoft gave us glimpses of Windows 8, demonstrating tablets running the emerging OS. They’ve even posted a video showing how the team came up with design choices and highlighting new features. There the public was treated to a completely different looking Windows interface, one based loosely on that of the company’s mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7.

More recently, Microsoft’s president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, Steven Sinofsky, recently launched the Building Windows 8 blog, where details will be shared and feedback will be collected. The blog is written by Microsoft engineers working on particular features of the OS and intended for an engineer audience. But it also gives the public some insight into what’s cooking at the Redmond operating system factory.

In the first post on that blog, Sinofsky makes the bold assertion that Windows 8 will represent the biggest rethinking of the PC operating system since Windows 95. That’s quite a statement, considering big-time releases like XP, Vista, and Windows 7 have intervened. Windows 95 was the first version to truly break the bonds of DOS, and Windows 8 also promises to move the PC in a drastically new direction. It’s Microsoft’s response to the “post-PC” world of tablets epitomized by Apple’s iPad.

So we’ve gotten a brief look at W8 at the spring conferences, and more details are starting to dribble out from the Windows 8 blog, but we can expect to get a much fuller look at Windows 8 soon. Microsoft will host a new developer conference on September 13 to 16 in Anaheim, California. BUILD is the show at which the company has promised more details than we’ve seen to this point. The tag line for the show is “In 1995, Windows changed the PC. BUILD will show you that Windows 8 changes everything.” PCMag will be there, keeping you abreast of any and all new light shed on the new OS. But in the meantime, in case you haven’t been following Windows 8′s birthing process, the pictorial journey here will get you caught up to speed.

Click here to see “Windows 8: What We Know So Far” slideshow >