Microsoft is crafting the new OS version, Windows 8, from a position of strength. This was, however, not the case when it launched Windows 7, when Microsoft had to come back from the flop show called Windows Vista and regain the confidence of vendors and enterprises.

According to Microsoft, Windows 7 is the fastest-selling operating system ever released. Already over 300 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold and the OS is still going strong among individual users and vendors. But the tech world is frenzied over the possible arrival of Windows 8 early next year. Here's a look at what could be the features of Windows 8.

1. ARM architecture

The presence of ARM architecture in Windows 8 is almost beyond any debate as Microsoft had said at the Consumer Electronics Show that a new version of the Windows OS will support ARM-based devices. This will be in addition to the capability to run x86 architecture. Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments were specifically cited as Microsoft's ARM partners at the time, CNET has reported.

2. Metro interface for tablets
There have been reports that Microsoft has been working hard to make its next OS version more tablet friendly even as markets have not warmed up to its claim that Windows Phone 7 is mighty suitable for tablets. Business Insider reported that Microsoft could use concepts from the Metro interface developed for Windows Phone 7 on the next Windows. The report cited a source at Microsoft as saying that the company could show off its new Windows 8 design for tablets by the end of June.
This person claims that Microsoft is taking a more Apple-like approach to interface design this time around, and will also be using concepts from the Metro interface developed for Windows Phone 7.

3. Ribbon Interface to replace pull-down menus and toolbars
Enthusiast websites have posted some screenshots of certain Windows 8 features online after the company sent pre-beta versions to vendors. The features that have been exposed in such posts include the ribbon interface that will replace pull-down menus and toolbars, a new welcome screen and a set-up routine and overall interface that takes a page from the design of the Metro UI.

4. An App Store
There is rampant speculation that the Windows 8 could feature an application store. If it does so, it will put its operating system on an even playing field against Mac OS X Snow Leopard and the upcoming “Lion,” which will ship with the App Store built in, says eweek.com. The rationale is that the future of desktop operating systems will include applications marketplaces.

5. Integration with Windows Live features
CNET has fancied if there would be built-in integration with some of Microsoft's Windows Live features in the new Windows 8. It has cited enthusiast site musing over an option for Sync, which could refer to Microsoft's cloud-based Windows Live Mesh. Another option called Web sharing could point to online storage service Windows Live SkyDrive.

6. History Vault
An eweek.com report speculates that Microsoft would go for a feature called 'History Vault' which is similar to Apple’s Time Machine. This will provide a simple backup interface to users of Mac OS X, it says. Microsoft’s option will let users restore individual file, edit old documents and much more. Microsoft hasn’t confirmed the feature, but if a robust backup utility like that comes to Windows, it would be quite nice.

7. Face recognition, 3D capability etc.
Speculation has swirled around in the tech world about the possibility of Microsoft adding fancied features like face recognition and 3D capability.

THE RELEASE DATE

There haven’t been many clues as to when the release will take place. Tech websites and the blogosphere conclude that the launch will be in 2012. Microsoft had said late last year in a blog that Windows 8 cold be available in 2012. There hasn’t been any official update since then, though it emerged over the weekend that Microsoft has sent pre-beta versions of the new OS to its vendor partners. CNET reported last week that Hewlett-Packard, among other vendors, has received Milestone 3 build 7971.0.110324-1900 of Windows 8 through Microsoft's Connect testing system.