Mark your calendars. Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky has announced that the company’s next operating system–Windows 8–will release October 26, 2012. On this day consumers will be able to get their hands on the final version of the OS whether they are upgrading their current PC or wanting to purchase a new one. When it ships three distinct versions of Windows 8 will be floating around: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT. For a chart that helps visualize the differences, click here. Note that RT will not sell in stores and will only come preinstalled on devices such as the Microsoft Surface.
Recently Microsoft also took the covers off the next version of their productivity suite. Office 2013 focuses on the cloud for saving and accessing content across multiple devices, social and new visual scenarios, and touch input for tablet accessibility. You can read all about the new Office right here, and you can even download a free customer preview of the software that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and Outlook and give it a test drive. Microsoft has not specified price and release date info, but it was made known that Office 2013 Home and Student edition will come preloaded on all Windows RT devices. Stay tuned.
The next operating system from Microsoft is almost here. After posting the Developer and Consumer previews, on May 28 the company let loose the Windows 8 Release Preview. In addition to packing bug fixes to make for a more stable and consistent user experience, the Release Preview includes improvements to existing apps like Mail, Photos, and People and introduces new Bing-powered apps Travel, News, and Sports. Also included is Zune Pass integration, Flash support in Internet Explorer 10, and of course a broader selection of apps in the Windows Store as developers start to hop aboard the Metro bandwagon.
The Windows 8 Release Preview is available for download today in 14 languages today; click here to access the free download. The final version of the touch-friendly OS is out later this year. PR after the break.
Microsoft unveiled their next major operating system release in June 2010. Then at the BUILD 2011 developer’s conference the company provided further details about the totally revamped, Metro-style OS. And now, this past Wednesday at Mobile World Congress in Spain, Microsoft has made available to the general public the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. According to a press release, this free preview “offers a more robust experience for testing the world’s most popular operating system and is available to the widest range of people yet following the initial release of the Windows 8 Developer Preview late last year.” In other words, it will provide a more stable Windows 8 experience for developers and consumers alike to check out before Microsoft officially releases the final version of the OS before the end of the year.
Ready to give Windows 8 a spin? Head over to Microsoft’s official download portal and click Get It Nowto, well, get it now. Can your computer handle it? The company released these recommendations: 1 GHz or faster processor; 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit); 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit); DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.
This week at its developer-focused BUILD conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft previewed Windows 8 in all its Metro glory and offered up new juicy details surrounding the upcoming sleek OS. Methinks they can be best presented in easily digestible bullet point format.
- Windows 8 doesn’t require the latest and greatest and most powerful computer guts to run well. At the conference Microsoft’s President of Windows Steven Sinofsky (above) showed off a Lenevo S10 running Win8 without hiccup. The S10 is an ancient netbook released in 2008 with a single core 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM, mind you.
- Sinofsky also showed off not-yet-released ultra thin-and-light notebooks running Win8 smoothly. These “ultrabooks” of the future will have no problem powering the OS.
- Win8 will come baked with NFC support. Microsoft demoed a tap-to-share feature whereby users can physically tap a tablet running Win8 to another compatible device and share information between the two devices. Just like HP’s “touch-t0-share” functionality between the TouchPad and other WebOS devices.
- Xbox Live is coming to Windows. The company promises that this new service will bring the console’s games, music, movies, and TV shows to Win8 devices. (Click here to watch a demo)
- The Windows Store (Microsoft’s version of Apple’s Mac App Store) will sell both Metro-style and conventional Windows apps.
- Metro apps can communicate with one another so long as the developer builds that functionality in. Microsoft offers this example: “You can easily select and email photos from different places, such as Facebook, Flickr or on your hard drive.”
- Windows SkyDrive support allows users to access content in the cloud across various Win8 devices with a Microsoft account.
- The company has given a name to the pane that houses Search, Share, Start, Connect, and Settings. A swipe from the right brings up those aforementioned “Charms.”
- The new OS will offer three different ways of logging into your account: password, PIN, or picture password. That last one is definitely the most innovative; you can select a picture from your collection and you will be asked to setup three touch points. When you go to login simply touch the predetermined points and you’re in!
- Expect much, much faster bootup times. Depending on the type of hardware, going from completely off to the login screen could take as short as 3-5 seconds.
- The ability to refresh and reset the OS from scratch is a new feature. If for any reason your system becomes corrupted due to, say, a virus you can wipe it out but keep all your settings in tact with a feature called Refresh. If things get really bad or you’re just looking to start anew again, Reset makes it easy to restore your OS to its original factory settings.
- Last but certainly not least I want to talk about the core of Windows 8. Microsoft continues to reiterate that the new Metro UI and its Live Tile apps is not a skin on top of the classic Windows 7-esque desktop. At the conference the company demoed how users will easily be able to switch back and forth between the new UI and what Windows enthusiasts are used to. Think of it like this. The traditional Windows desktop with Start menu and Quick Launch bar lives next to (not underneath or above) the new UI. To access it users will tap or click the “Desktop” square that lives among the apps that make up the Metro UI. Want to download and engage with new HTML5-based apps? Stay inside Metro. Need to pull up a spreadsheet in Excel? You’re probably going to want to switch into the classic Windows mode. Let’s hope that Microsoft eventually ports their Office suite to Metro like Apple built an iOS version of iWork. Once that happens, your eagerness to return to the dark ages will quickly begin to dwindle. Microsoft is firm in its belief that Metro is the future for their PCs and smartphones; don’t be surprised if one day they completely phase out the Windows interface of yesteryear.
- Update: Microsoft has announced that the Internet Explorer 10 running in Metro will not support any plug-ins. And that includes Flash. But why? Because they claim it “improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers.” Don’t fret, though; IE10 running in the classic Windows app will support plug-ins as usual. Though Flash maker Adobe says they are ready and willing to “drive innovation in HTML5,” they will also be working hard to enable Flash-based apps in Metro via Adobe AIR.
Windows 8 is expected to release in 2012. But what if I told you there’s a way to get your hands on Windows 8 right now? The Windows Developer Preview is out now! So for all you app-makers out there excited to start building apps for the Metro interface, don’t wait another minute and click that link. And for those of you who are interested in learning more about Microsoft’s next big thing, check out the Windows unveiled article posted back in June. Microsoft’s plan to integrate Windows 8 across all kinds of devices (desktops, laptops, ultrabooks, and tablets running x86 and efficient ARM processors) is discussed in more detail there and after the break in PR form.
Today Microsoft unveiled the next version of Windows; internally it’s being appropriately referred to as Windows 8. Microsoft’s goal with this iterative update is to bring one unified Windows experience to all kinds of platforms, including desktops, laptops, ultraportables, netbooks, and tablets. Note that this approach is fundamentally different from Apple’s; that camp separates Mac OS X and iOS as two different experiences and user interfaces–one is built around keyboard and mouse implementation, while the other is tailor-made for touch input. Microsoft says that the next version of Windows is being built with both methods of input in mind.
During the demonstration Microsoft did not dive all that deep into the flashy new UI but here are a few things to know. When you power up a Windows 8 device you’ll see a lock screen that provides the date and time and some notifications; the lock screen background can be customized. Swipe up and you’ll be brought to the Start screen we’ve been discussing. Microsoft describes this customizable space as a “personal mosaic of tiles.” Every app you install to your device will exist as a tile. Click Weather and the app opens full screen. Multitasking is seamless. When multiple apps are open at once, simply swipe from the left to push background apps into the foreground. Switching from the browser to videos to pictures is extremely fluid and fast. Apps can also run alongside each other. For example, if you’re watching a video and want to check on your Twitter feed, a subtle swipe from the left will snap your Twitter feed to the left pane so you can check it out and continue watching your video simultaneously. If you’re on a tablet or slate device a virtual keyboard will reveal itself when it’s needed. A standard keyboard can be replaced by a “thumbs layout” that splits the keyboard in two and makes it more ergonomically friendly for tablet users whose hands are grasping the device from the sides. Also, no matter where you are a swipe from the right will show a pane consisting of Search, Share, Start, Connect, and Settings.
Ready for an unfortunate surprise? The new interface discussed here is, at its core, an OS skin of sorts. The regular Windows desktop and file system you’re used to exists behind the flashy overhaul. During the demonstration Microsoft Excel was initiated from the tile experience and was instantly opened inside the traditional Windows experience–desktop, Start menu, taskbar and all. Since Windows 8 will be a hybrid experience consisting of the new touch-based UI and the traditional Windows interface there will be a divide when it comes to app development; devs will have the option to make an app for the new space, the old space, or both. What’s neat, however, is that “flashy” apps can run alongside “traditional” apps. For example, you can have a Word document open and swipe in from the left a Twitter or RSS feed at any time. Also demoed was the ability to explore app content from multiple locations within the OS. For example, pictures can be viewed from the local file system, connected networks, and other apps on the system. The thought of running two distinct UIs at the same time is a bit scary, but at least Microsoft is doing its best to tie them together effectively.
And now let’s bring things full circle. As stated earlier, Windows 8 is meant to bridge the gap between desktop and mobile device, to create one seamless and connected experience across multiple platforms. Whether you’re using a keyboard and mouse or your fingers the next Windows will work. Apps will be designed from the ground up to be touch-capable (as is the OS), but Microsoft reassures that traditional keyboard and mouse input will work just fine. The upcoming OS will work with both x86 and ARM processors; Microsoft has teamed with NVIDIA, TI, and Qualcomm so far on that front. The company promises that hundreds of millions of developers will already know how to develop for it by the time it releases. Speaking of which, don’t expect to see Windows 8 running on your machine anytime soon. First Microsoft has to teach developers how to make apps for the new UI; this will happen at their upcoming developer event BUILD this September in California. At that time more details surrounding the upcoming OS will likely come out. Obviously a solid release window has not been announced yet, let alone a final name for the product. Microsoft let on that consumers and businesses should not anticipate a fall release.
That about does it for now. Essentially today’s unveil was just that–Microsoft lifted the curtains to reveal the flashy aesthetic of its new OS and showed how brilliantly it performs on tiny ARM processors. Hang tight, September is just three months away! Go on and jump after the break to watch a brief demonstration of Windows 8.