Windows 8 Review

Windows 8 is the official name for the next version of Microsoft Windows, a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablet PCs, and media center PCs. According to unofficial sources, the release date for Windows 8 has been set for October 2012, three years after the release of its predecessor, Windows 7.
Windows 8's server counterpart, Windows Server 2012, is in development concurrently with Windows 8. The most recent officially released pre-release version is the Consumer Preview, which was released on February 29, 2012. An almost-complete Release Preview is scheduled for the first week of June 2012.

Unlike Windows 7, which was intended to be a more focused, incremental upgrade to the Windows line, Windows 8 has been “reimagined from the chipset to the user experience” to connect with the user more. It features the Metro-style interface that is designed for touchscreen input similar to that in Windows Phone and on the Xbox 360. A version of Windows 8, called Windows RT, also adds support for the ARM processor architecture in addition to the previously supported x86 microprocessors from Intel and AMD.

Early announcements

Windows 8 development started before Windows 7 had shipped in 2009. However, it was in January 2011, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), that 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 its new user interface as well as additional 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. A month before the BUILD conference was held, Microsoft opened a new blog called "Building Windows 8" for users and developers on August 15, 2011.

 Milestone leaks
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

Microsoft unveiled new Windows 8 features and improvements on the first day of the BUILD conference on September 13, 2011. Microsoft also released the Windows 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 also introduced the Start screen and the Start button in the desktop opened the Start screen instead of the Start menu in the Developer Preview.
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 present 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. Like the Developer Preview, the Consumer Preview is set to expire on 15 January 2013.

Release Preview

Steven Sinofsky announced that the Windows 8 Release Preview will be ready for download during the first week of June at Japan's Dev's Days conference.

New features

Main article: Features new to Windows 8

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 only through Windows Store. Metro-style apps are developed with the new Windows Runtime platform using various programming languages, or in the case of HTML, a mark-up language, 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

  • 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 will maintain legacy plug-in support.
  • Ability to sign in using a Windows Live ID. This will allow for the user's profile and settings to be synchronized over the internet and accessible from other computers running Windows 8, as well as integration with SkyDrive.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hybrid Boot will use "advanced hibernation functionality" on shutdown to allow faster startup times.
A laptop showing Windows 8's Hybrid Boot
Bootable Windows To Go USB flash drive
  • Windows To Go will allow Windows 8 to boot and run from a bootable USB device (such as a flash drive).
  • 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.
  • Native USB 3.0 support
  • A new lock screen
  • New Windows Task Manager design
  • Xbox Live (Including Xbox Live Arcade)

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