Although Microsoft Windows has been an undisputed player in the desktop computer battle field, the advent of the iPhone and iPad has given Apple a unique identity that has turned out to be a threat for its rivals. With the upcoming Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft, however, hopes to edge Apple iOS by offering a single operating system for tablets, laptops, and PCs.
When Microsoft Windows Division President, Steven Sinofsky, gave an audience of developers a full preview of Windows 8 at the company's Build 2011 conference on Tuesday, the mix of new features came as a surprise.
Although there is a plethora of new features in Windows 8, here is our take on the top 10 that Microsoft announced in the conference.
Tile-based Metro Style UI: The new Metro UI is split into blocks or Live Tiles, as Microsoft calls them. The touch interactive tiles show instant data from email services, social networking sites, instant messaging apps and other information sources. The multi-monitor support built in allows the new Metro UI to function on one monitor, while the basic Windows desktop UI shows on another. The Metro style UI can comfortably be used with a mouse and keyboard as well.
Faster booting: Microsoft demo of Windows 8 showed a system cold boot in eight seconds. In the Building Windows 8 blog, Sinofsky said that Windows 8 achieves such super-fast booting because it doesn't quite shut down in the traditional sense. It uses a fast boot that's a combination of cold booting and hibernating.
Built-in Hyper-V virtualization technology: As an answer to VMware's popular hypervisor, Microsoft has announced that its Hyper-V virtualization technology will come to Windows 8. The software will be available in both the server and desktop versions of Windows. Hyper-V requires a 64-bit system that has Second Level Address Translation (SLAT). Users also require a 64-bit version of Windows 8, and at least 4GB of RAM. Despite requiring 64-bit hardware and a 64-bit version of Windows 8, Hyper-V still provides the ability to run both 32- and 64-bit guest operating systems.
Modified task manager and control panel: Windows 8 will incorporate a new task manager, in which applications will be listed independently from background processes, allowing users to view statistics, such as CPU usage, memory usage and performance for both apps and processes. Control Panel is also modified in Widows 8 with a sensitive interface that lists categories down the left side and options for those categories on the right.
Windows 8 app store: Given the rise of Apple's iOS App Store, inclusion of an app store in the upcoming Windows 8 OS shouldn't be a big surprise. The app store creates a kind of enticement for developers to build Metro-style apps. Through Windows Store, users will have access to both Win32 apps and Metro apps for Windows 8.
Internet Explorer 10: IE 10 will allow users to search either their desktops or the web through Bing search engine. Users will also have virtual thumb and full soft keyboards to perform searches. There will also be a skinned version of IE 10, which will bring a start screen for quick access to the pinned Web sites and the Web sites frequently used. The Metro IE10 has the address bar and a set of common commands at the bottom and Tabs at the top.
ARM Processor: Adding to the traditional x86 chips from Intel and AMD, Windows 8 will also run on ARM-based processors. Thanks to their low-power, connected computing, ARM processors like Nvidia's Tegra, Qualcomm's Snapdragon and TI's OMAP have dominated both the smartphone and tablet industry.
Refresh and Reset: The refresh function allows users to test and compare new and old system setups with the help of a new feature called the Windows Assessment Console. The refresh function will allow users to refresh their PCs without the files getting affected. The reset function helps to reset the PC and start over. With this function, the system can be restored to their original values, while keeping the user account and personal files intact.
NFC support: Microsoft has announced that Windows 8 will ship with native support for NFC (Near Field Communications). The company has demonstrated the usage of NFC on its Windows 8 tablet at the Build conference. NFC allows for simplified transactions, data exchange and wireless connections between two devices close to each other, usually by no more than a few centimetres.
Improved security features: Windows comes with better security features that include an improved Windows Defender built into the OS. At the Build conference, Sinofsky demonstrated that Windows 8 would not boot from a rootkit-infected USB stick.
Windows 8 is expected to arrive in 2012 on PCs and tablets.