8 things we know about Windows 8

Windows 8 Information

Microsoft has been working on Windows 8 for a while, moving from general planning to more in-depth discussions in the spring; earlier this month the Windows team finalized the key scenarios.

Microsoft always starts planning the next version as soon as it’s clear what’s going to make it into the version under development.

At this stage there isn’t any official information and there won’t be for a year or more.

Here are 8 things about Windows 8 from Techradar that are clear:

1. Windows 8 release date is late 2011 or early 2012

That’s 2-3 years after Windows 7; leaving aside the aberration of Vista, that’s the typical time between Windows releases and it matches up with the 2012 dates mentioned on leaked Windows Server timelines.

While Windows President Steven Sinofsky says he doesn’t want to “underpromise and over-deliver” for Windows, it’s likely that Microsoft will announce the later date and ship on the earlier one.

2. Everything we know comes from job ads and profiles – so we don’t know much

It’s impossible to say what will and won’t be in Windows 8 at this stage because no-one knows; not even the Windows team.

The broad scenarios for Windows have been decided and all features will have to fit into one of those scenarios but the feature list isn’t set. The final list of features will be locked down late in 2010, which is when we’ll see the first public beta – and the first official details.

Remember that internally Microsoft uses ‘Windows 8’ to cover the server and desktop operating systems and many of the features gleaned from job adverts are server features like Distributed File System Replication (DFSR) storage technology and the File Server role.

If the rumoured 128-bit support is true, then it’s 128-bit registers for processing data in Itanium servers.

3. Hibernate and resume will have a new engine

According to the profile of an intern on the Windows team, there’s going to be a new Hibernate/Resume Integration API using what he calls “the new TLZ file compression engine”. That could mean even faster hibernation and resume times – if it makes it into the final code.

4. Windows 8 will have new networking and security features

Another intern reports working on “new networking features”; that tells us about as much as the profile of the Software Security Engineer who’s working on “Windows 8 security”.

Changes in network security, authentication and encryption detailed in a Software Design Engineer’s profile are again probably related to Windows Server. Another online resume mentions a possible “follow-on” to the PatchGuard system that stops viruses changing system files that was delayed from Windows 7.

5. Seadragon? Maybe

The team behind SeaDragon and the Deep Zoom feature in Silverlight is recruiting a Lead Developer but the ad only says they “want to take it” to Windows 8 (as well as Windows Mobile 7, XNA for Xbox and WPF for Vista and Windows 7).

6. Windows 8 will have better multimonitor support

Steven Sinofsky has already said there wasn’t time to do more work on the user interface with multiple monitors but that it’s on the list for Windows 8, not least because “we all use it at Microsoft”. Expect scenarios for handling three or more screens, in various arrangements.

7. Windows 8 might run on ARM

Or at least the Windows kernel might run on the ARM and Qualcomm Snapdragon chips found inside smartphones, possibly using a hypervisor. That might not mean the full version of Windows 8 but it would enable a future mobile version of Windows that could run on much lower spec systems than current PCs.

8. Steven Sinofsky is in charge of it

This is both good – he was responsible for getting Windows 7 out on time and working well – and potentially very bad. Sinofsky’s expertise is execution rather than vision and for Windows 8 that could mean a pedestrian set of improvements rather than anything potentially game changing.

Windows 7 is more than Vista done right, but it is an excellent execution of the Vista architecture changes.

With Windows 7 to compete against, Windows 8 will need to be a lot more exciting than that.

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