Windows 8 Alpha Peek

It’s no surprise that pre-release versions of Windows 8 have leaked to the Internet.

The recently leaked builds confirm that Windows 8 will move on the operating system significantly, from the kernel to the cloud. Windows 8 will be the first with ARM processor support, mobile-device optimization and user interface changes…

The support for ARM processors, which Steve Ballmer demonstrated at CES in January, is part of Microsoft’s drive to get Windows onto tablets in order to compete with Android and iOS on slim, low-power devices. As long as Microsoft can keep the software bloat under control, learning from Windows phone 7 and Thin-PC/Windows embedded, this could happen.

Touch Optimization
Windows on touch-screen interfaces has never been successful, up to and including the current crop of Windows 7. Previews of designs from the login screen, task manager and browser indicate tight integration of touch controls throughout the operating system. A pattern-recognition screen can be used to replace passwords at login, which we’ve seen on Android devices for a while. Gesture support has been seen in the wild.

Ribbons

The Ribbon interface is all over Windows Explorer. Just when you thought file-management in Windows couldn’t get even more confusing. Quite how this will translate on tablets I have no idea. The Ribbon is partially succesful in maximising on-screen real-estate, but a disaster in user operation and that’s on regular desktops and laptops. There seems to be a fall-back conventional menu option, however.

Modern Windows Task Manager

Yes, that’s it’s name. The Winodws Task Manager has been with us little-changed since Windows 95. Managing running applications with the ability to kill resource-hogging tasks is even more critical on resource-limited mobile devices. ‘Modern Windows Task Manager’ provides a single window combining the Resource Monitor and the Task Manager. With tap-friendly ‘kill buttons’ for tablet users, this looks like a step forward.

Immersive Browser
Leaked screenshots from the Windows 8 Alpha show a simple, full-screen browser very close to the Metro browser from Windows Phone 7, including the icon grid for favorites.

Cloud Integration

Windows 8 will get integrated cloud storage and background synchronisation, not just with Windows Live SkyDrive, but adding third-party cloud storage services as mapped drives.

Portable Workspaces
Microsoft is integrating the Startkey technology into Windows 8, called Portable Workspace. USB drives of 16GB or larger can be formatted with a portable image of the user’s Windows 8 system, giving you a pocket clone of your PC.

Verdict
We’ve been here before; see the post on the Long March to Windows 7, for the potted history of Longhorn, Blackcomb and the abomination of Vista. The design of Windows Phone 7 seems to demonstrate that Microsoft has learned lessons, but Windows 8 still has to deliver. On the Alpha showing, this could be a significant version release. It will have to be, otherwise iOS, BeOS, Google Chrome OS and others could eat the entire mobile and tablet market and even steal a chunk of the desktop. AJS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s