Pre-release versions of Windows 8 have leaked to the web. Here's what they tell us about the upcoming OS.
Recently leaked builds show that Windows 8 will be a very different OS from its forebears, from the kernel to the cloud. ARM processor support, mobile-device optimisation, and system-wide menu tweaks abound. There are still a lot of things we don't know about the next OS from Microsoft, but the number of things we can say for sure is growing. Read on for our list of 7 things we know about Windows 8!
It's no secret that Microsoft wants Windows on tablets. To get there, Windows 8 will include support for ARM processors, as Steve Ballmer demonstrated at CES in January. That means it could compete with Android and iOS on slim, low-power devices-if Microsoft keeps bloat under control.
The suckage of Windows touch-screen interfaces has been, well, a touchstone of tech reality for more than a decade. But design elements from the login screen, task manager, and browser all point to tight integration of touch controls throughout the operating system. A touch-friendly login screen buried in the leaked code lets you unlock the device using a pattern rather than a password, in the same way Android does. Some short-lived YouTube videos (DMCA'd by Microsoft's legal team) also demonstrated gesture support.
If you were among the throngs who hoped Office's ribbon menus would prove a passing phase, you'll be sorry to note that they're now pervasive in Windows Explorer. The good news is that it looks like you'll be able to revert these menus to a layout more similar to that of Windows 7.
Windows 8 Explorer menus will apparently feature the same ribbon interface as Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010, though we may have the option of reverting to old-school menu bars.
Revamped Task Manager
Managing running applications - and being able to quickly kill resource-hogging tasks - is even more critical on mobile devices than it is on gaming rigs. The reconfigured tool, renamed Modern Windows Task Manager, will give you a single window from which to spot and kill the processes that are slowing down your system by combining the Resource Monitor and the Task Manager together. It also includes tap-friendly kill buttons for tablet users.
Some leaked screenshots from the Windows 8 alpha show a simple, full-screen browser that looks identical to the Metro browser included in Windows Phone 7, complete with a mosaic of little blocks for favourites and such. Once again, strong evidence that Microsoft is betting big on tablets as the future home of Windows.
At long last, it looks like Windows will get integrated cloud storage synching with Win8. In addition to Windows Live SkyDrive, which you'd expect the next Windows to support by default, it appears you'll be able to add third-party cloud storage services as mapped drives.
The demise of U3 in 2009 left a void in the portable apps market that Microsoft helped to fill by co-founding StartKey in partnership with SanDisk. It now appears that Microsoft is integrating this technology directly into Windows 8 with a feature called Portable Workspace. Leaked screenshots show that USB drives of 16GB or larger will be formatted with a portable image of the user's Windows 8 system.
The new Portable Workspace will turn any USB drive with more than 16GB of space into a pocketable clone of your PC.
Of course, predicting final release features based on Windows alphas is always dicey. We need only recall all the cool features Longhorn was supposed to bring us, and then look at the reality of Vista, for a cautionary tale in the hazards of banking on Microsoft's leaked alpha builds. But if Microsoft has the sack to release all the features we're seeing in these early builds, Windows 8 could prove as significant a platform change as Win95.
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