Windows 8: What we know so far

By Tom Warren, on 6th Sep 11 6:18 pm with 70 Comments

Microsoft will unveil Windows 8 to the world in exactly a week’s time, but what do we know so far?

ARM-based chipset support

Windows 8 ARM tablets

The first official Windows 8 details came in the form of ARM support for Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system. Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky revealed that Microsoft is planning to support ARM chipsets during a speech at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. Microsoft is partnering with ARM-based manufacturers NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. The new ARM support will allow for better battery life and new form factors for Windows devices. ARM believes that Microsoft’s chipset adoption will see Windows expand further into cars and TVs in the future.

New “Immersive” Metro styled user interface – Start Screen

Windows 8 start UI

The biggest change in Windows comes with Microsoft’s new Start Screen and subsequent tablet optimized experience. The software giant first unveiled the interface at the D9 conference in June, revealing a beautiful and refreshing concept for all Windows devices. The interface is very similar to the company’s Windows Phone tiles concept. Windows 8 users will be able to take advantage of classic desktop apps alongside HTML5 web apps. The Start Screen contains a tile-based row of applications and web apps that replaces the Start Menu by default. The tiles include notifications and similar “live tiles” information support seen in Windows Phone. Applications can be snapped to the side of the screen to allow multiple apps to run seamlessly in the touch-optimized experience.

Internet Explorer 10

Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8

Windows 8 will include the company’s Internet Explorer 10 browser. IE10 will be at the heart of Microsoft’s new “immersive” experience, powering the browsing and HTML5 web apps that users will interact with in the Start Screen and new user interface inside Windows 8. Internet Explorer 10 will include further support for even more standards like CSS3 gradients, multi-column and grid layouts. Microsoft released its first Internet Explorer 10 platform preview in April and is expected to deliver an updated platform preview at BUILD next week.

New Windows 8 Start Button and Start Menu

New Windows 8 start button

Despite Microsoft’s new Start Screen interface, the company is still planning to support the Start Button and Start Menu in Windows 8. Microsoft has teased the new Metro style Windows 8 Start Button and Menu during a number of recent building Windows 8 videos. The new Windows Start Button appears to be more flat with pastel colors, reflecting the company’s adoption of the Metro design language it now uses heavily in its future products. Microsoft’s Windows 8 Start Menu has also been cut down in size with very basic options.

Windows 8 Start Menu

Windows Explorer Ribbon user interface

Windows 8 Explorer - Home tab

Microsoft has revealed that it plans to incorporate the famous Office ribbon inside Windows Explorer for Windows 8. The ribbon is designed to optimize file management asks throughout explorer by surfacing a number of easy to use buttons. The various tabs will allow Windows 8 users to quickly complete file tasks like moving, copying and pasting along with simple and quick access to sharing images and data via email, printing or faxing. The ribbon will remain power user friendly and include all of the normal Windows Explorer shortcuts.

Native VHD and ISO mounting

ISO mounting in Windows 8

Windows 8 will natively support ISO and VHD mounting. The process of mounting ISOs is very simple in Windows 8. Users can simply double click a file to have it mounted in Windows Explorer. VHD support is similar too. VHDs will appear as a virtual HDD in Windows Explorer, giving end users simple access to their contents.

USB 3.0 support

Surprise surprise by Microsoft confirmed that Windows 8 will definitely support USB 3.0. USB 3.0 is the latest standard for USB connectivity. USB 3.0 supports transmission speeds of up to 5Gbit/s, 10x faster than USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/s). A number of laptops now support USB 3.0, including models from Sony, Toshiba and Dell.

Hyper-V 3.0 and new VHDX virtual hard drive format

Windows 8 - VHDX

Microsoft recently confirmed that Windows 8 will include Hyper-V in the client version. Hyper-V allows end users to run more than one 32-bit or 64-bit x86 OS at the same time on the same computer through virtual machines (VM). Microsoft’s new VHDX format is capable of supporting disks much larger than the current 2TB restriction of VHD. Microsoft has created VHDX which is capable of supporting disks up to 16TB in size. The new format can only be used in Windows OS versions starting at Windows 8.

Improved copy and and move user interface

File copy/move user interface in Windows 8

Windows 8 will include an improved user interface during copy and move file transfers. Multiple file copy and move jobs will now take place in one dialog box where end users can pause, cancel or resume copy/move jobs. The consolidated user experience will also include details of the speed of data transfer, transfer rate trend and how much data is left to transfer. Copy and paste conflict dialog boxes have also been improved to include a more visible and actionable approach.

Lack of Dolby DVD playback support

Dolby has revealed that Microsoft’s current Windows 8 builds do not include the company’s Dolby Digital Plus technologies. Dolby expects to license its DVD playback support directly to OEMs and ISVs instead of native inclusion by Microsoft in Windows 8. Microsoft could be licensing a rival company’s technology for DVD playback support in Windows 8.

Windows Media Center still present in Windows 8

Windows 7 Media Center

Microsoft will include Media Center inside Windows 8 but not initially. The company is planning to unveil a developer preview build of Windows 8 shortly which will not include Media Center bits. Despite the removal, Microsoft plans to add Media Center back to Windows 8 at a later stage in beta development.

Xbox LIVE built into Windows 8

New Xbox LIVE dashboard user interface

Microsoft’s vice president of global marketing in the interactive entertainment business unit, Mike Delman, revealed in June that the company plans to include Xbox LIVE on Windows PCs. The company is currently consolidating its user experience across the phone, PC and Xbox to ensure it is consistent and familiar for end users. Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE support will likely see Windows gamers gaining achievement points for the service inside Windows 8.

Leak: Powershell 3.0 and AppX

Powershell 3.0 and AppX module

AppX is Microsoft’s new method for packaging and deploying application in Windows 8 according to some leaked information earlier this year. Microsoft is understood to be preparing an application model codenamed “Jupiter” that will allow developers to create native applications that take advantage of AppX packaging. The packages can then be distributed using Powershell 3.0. Some early builds of Windows 8 include Powershell 3.0 and the ability to target machines with an AppX installer.

Leak: Windows App Store

Microsoft has all but confirmed the inclusion of a Windows App Store for Windows 8. The store is expected to feature HTML5 web apps alongside native AppX applications. Microsoft will likely position its store as the quickest and easiest way to find and install Windows applications.

Leak: New “Protogon” file system

Protogon file system in Windows 8

Several references to a “Protogon” file system have been discovered in recently leaked builds of Windows 8. The “NT Protogon FS driver” appears to be a kernel mode driver for a new file system called Protogon. The file system includes database-like transactions, rows and tables and may replace or emulate the NTFS file system. Many speculate that it could be the return of Microsoft’s famous Windows Future Storage (WinFS) system that was originally promised during the Windows Vista (Longhorn) beta development.

Leak: Multi-monitor support improvements

Windows 8 multi-monitor concept

Microsoft appears to be working on improved multi-monitor support inside Windows 8. A leak in June points towards a “Multiple Display” task bar dialog box and group policy objects that reference enhanced multi-monitor options.

Rumor: “Chatter” video service inside Windows 8

Windows 8 lockscreen

Microsoft may be planning a “Chatter” video service directly inside Windows 8. References to the service appeared in several leaked builds of Windows 8. Microsoft’s Metro style lock screen also features a camera icon that appears to include a notification number, indicating missed calls.

Leak: Windows Live Online ID and Cloud settings sync

Windows 8 sync

Microsoft appears to be building in broad cloud support straight into Windows 8. Two separate leaks indicate that Microsoft is preparing to sync a number of windows settings across multiple Windows 8 PCs. Settings such as desktop wallpaper, Search settings and Mouse settings will all be synced using Microsoft’s Windows Live infrastructure. Linking an online ID with a Windows 8 account will also allow for automatic sign-in to all websites and programs.

Leak: History Vault backup

Windows 8 - History Vault

Microsoft appears to be creating a time machine-like backup service by consolidating a number of its existing backup technologies into a user friendly interface.The feature will allow Windows 8 users to backup files and folders automatically using the Shadow Copies function of Windows. The interface will allow end users to restore select files to a specific time-stamp.

Leak: System Reset

Windows 8 System Reset

Early copies of Windows 8 reference a System Reset feature that appears to allow end users to reset their systems to original OEM factory settings. The feature could be used by businesses or OEMs to wipe a machine back to its original settings and restore a default set of Windows settings after the user triggers the option.

  • Anonymous

    It’s interesting how we’ve seen all this yet I’m hoping we’ve seen nothing yet :)

    • Vladan

      This.

      More suprises are yet to be revealed at BUILD.

      So pumped up! Can’t wait! 7 days left!

    • guest

      is there some website that I can watch Build online?

    • http://netnate.net Matthieu Nate

      There will be.

  • http://www.searingarrow.com AlienSix

    Windows 8 is going to be amazing, it cant come fast enough

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=11814278 Chris Woelfel

      that’s what she said.

  • Logannowak

    This is going to be awesome. I can’t wait.

  • Andrew

    Hopefully the global economic collapse won’t stop us from getting it.

  • Frylockns86

    God I cannot wait for Windows 8. That new lock screen is SEXY!

    • Frylockns86

      Oh, and History Vault is something a greatly look forward to as well.

    • Anonymous

      Did you know it’s already in Vista and 7?  Right click a folder and select “Restore Previous Versions”

    • J A

      This is called “Previous Versions” as long as Shadow Copies are enabled on the drive where the data exists, I know it exists as far back as XP if not earlier.

    • Guest

      I’m pretty sure that History Vault is supposed to be better than stuff like Shadow Copies.

    • Guest

      I just loved your “Stylus or GTFO!” comment. It was awesome. :)

  • contextfree

    “Many speculate that it could be the return of Microsoft’s famous Windows Future Storage (WinFS) system”

    “many” have no idea what they’re talking about.

    • Guest

      Just because it’s a file system & not a file system addon does not mean it cannot be WinFS.  Remember, WinFS was actually a file system before it was named WinFS.  Remember OFS?

  • Sanchito75

    looks like MS is bringing “sexy back” to the UI. can’t wait until Build!

    • Candid Calum

      It never was sexy in my opinion, ha, but the new Immersive experience certainly looks sexy, just like Zune and Windows Phone are.

  • Jinge

    I just hope they won’t remove the “search program and files” textbox from the start menu, it is one of the features i like the most in W7! You want to change your background? type it. You want to change screen saver settings/remove a program? type it. It is great! 
    Hope it will still be here…

    • http://www.twitter.com/wixostrix WixosTrix

      I agree, it’s really amazing and sometimes even surprising.  One day my friend said she didn’t have any of the Windows games on her computer (she had professional so they needed to be installed).  When I searched for Solitaire, and since it didn’t have the game installed the result that showed up was “Turn Windows features on or off”.  If the user thought critically and clicked that, they would immediately see that “Games” is unchecked and could figure to check it and press okay.  That was impressive to me. 

    • http://www.twitter.com/wixostrix WixosTrix

      I agree, it’s really amazing and sometimes even surprising.  One day my friend said she didn’t have any of the Windows games on her computer (she had professional so they needed to be installed).  When I searched for Solitaire, and since it didn’t have the game installed the result that showed up was “Turn Windows features on or off”.  If the user thought critically and clicked that, they would immediately see that “Games” is unchecked and could figure to check it and press okay.  That was impressive to me. 

    • Anonymous

      If you look at the picture there is a search button in the start menu.

    • Anonymous

      Yes. And that is the problem. We have yet to see how instant search will be integrated.

  • http://twitter.com/michaelantj Michael James

    I cant wait for Windows 8 to be released, and i’m sure these features are gonna be minor compared to build, they wouldn’t release all these features to the public before build anyway, because there wouldn’t be a reason to buy a ticket (worth the price of a car)

  • Dalspartan

    just out of curiosity, if Win8 works on ARM, and the orphan HP TouchPad is an ARM processor, would it be possible to flash Win8  onto the TouchPad?

    • http://www.winrumors.com Tom W

      There’s a large number of ARM chips so it’s not clear which ones exactly MSFT will support. It’s possible but unlikely.

    • http://twitter.com/praveenreddy Praveen Lankireddy

      From the specs I’ve seen, Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 chipset is supported(not sure about GPU). I’m hoping that someone at MSFT shows Win 8 working on a HP TP. That would be amazing. Imagine having > 500K tablets running Win 8 before its released. It would generate a great amount of test data as well as a lot of good PR for MSFT.

    • http://twitter.com/praveenreddy Praveen Lankireddy

      From the specs I’ve seen, Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 chipset is supported(not sure about GPU). I’m hoping that someone at MSFT shows Win 8 working on a HP TP. That would be amazing. Imagine having > 500K tablets running Win 8 before its released. It would generate a great amount of test data as well as a lot of good PR for MSFT.

    • http://twitter.com/praveenreddy Praveen Lankireddy

      From the specs I’ve seen, Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 chipset is supported(not sure about GPU). I’m hoping that someone at MSFT shows Win 8 working on a HP TP. That would be amazing. Imagine having > 500K tablets running Win 8 before its released. It would generate a great amount of test data as well as a lot of good PR for MSFT.

    • Anonymous

      The TouchPad should support Windows 8.

      It uses qualcomm’s MSM8660 SoC, the same chip Mike Angiulo showed and talked about at Computex 2011 when Microsoft first showed Windows on ARM

      He shows the chip at about 19 minutes in

    • Dalspartan

      Thanks. That would be kind of fun, wouldn’t it?

    • Guest

      What about an obscure tablet known as the Realease Shogo?  http://www.realease.com/shogo  If I ever get it, I would LOVE to run Win 8 on it!  (In fact, above any OS it doesn’t already come with – it dual boots a custom OS based on Angstrom Linux & Android 1.6 right out of the box.)

    • Anonymous

      The TouchPad should support Windows 8.

      It uses qualcomm’s MSM8660 SoC, the same chip Mike Angiulo showed and talked about at Computex 2011 when Microsoft first showed Windows on ARM

      He shows the chip at about 19 minutes in

    • Anonymous

      The TouchPad should support Windows 8.

      It uses qualcomm’s MSM8660 SoC, the same chip Mike Angiulo showed and talked about at Computex 2011 when Microsoft first showed Windows on ARM

      He shows the chip at about 19 minutes in

  • Dalspartan

    just out of curiosity, if Win8 works on ARM, and the orphan HP TouchPad is an ARM processor, would it be possible to flash Win8  onto the TouchPad?

  • FairObserver

    well Tom, is this article a reflection of your inside knowledge that no more win8msdn blog posts till BUILD

  • FairObserver

    well Tom, is this article a reflection of your inside knowledge that no more win8msdn blog posts till BUILD

  • Anonymous

    Hope the bring back FAT32 file system.. Lol

  • rsgx

    All these features are simply awesome.

    This will (undoubtedly) make the best desktop and tablet OS out there.

  • Anonymous

    “Chatter” may just be a test app like “Flatter”, the Flickr clone in the first B8 video.

  • Soundtweaker

    Do we know if they are going to drop 32 bit support and go 64 bit only?

    • Seth_p

      Nothing was hinted to my knowledge. If I were to guess, I’d say with Microsoft’s track record of support they’d keep 32-bit for another release cycle.  Also, I recall them saying the sys requirements will be the same or lower than Win7. That might be your answer?

  • An Opiate For The Masses

    Ah, all of this nonsense, just what’s meant by, ‘an opiate for the masses’.

    “Oooh, a new start button!  Can’t wait!”

    “Oooh, yet another app store!   Can’t wait!”

    “Oooh, a phony new futuristic file system!  Can’t wait!”

    “Oooh, native ISO mounting!  Can’t wait!”

    “Oooh, IE10!  Don’t know why, but I (gag) can’t wait!”

    The reality remains that none of this fluff will address the core problem, will not repair the damage already done - that Microsoft has forever alientated the developer community on which any real or imagined ecosystem must rely. 

    HTML5 and JavaScript – still not the least bit interested – and even if we were, there’s nothing down that path worthy of anchoring us to the Windows platform, and this meaning that the Redmond brain trust has sown the seeds of its own destruction such that Google and Apple with thrive, while Microsoft will wither and die. 

    Azure?  Nope, not garning massive developer support there either – others, like Amazon, will thrive, while Microsoft will wither and die.

    The only magic capable of weaving together the most formidable ecosystem possible, capable of spanning a previously unimaginable number of platforms, capable of making Azure the most powerful choice possible and capable of inspiring massive developer support  – and as yet, unimagined creativity and innovation – Redmond’s finest creation, now and forever?

    Silverlight.

    That’s right, Silverlight.  And it’s all but dead, by Redmond’s own hand, betrayed by its creator, killed by the clueless.

    Let’s be clear – if that which rocks the world, start to finish, at Build is anything but Silverlight, itself somehow rising from the ashes like a phoenix, reigniting passionate belief in all that’s possible within the hearts and minds of Microsoft’s developer community, then no amount of glitter, no amount of free handouts or jive from empty suits will save them.

    For the writing will be otherwise on the wall – that the Redmond era of dominance has ended, the magic is gone and all that follows will too soon to go the way of the the TouchPad and webOS – simply dust beneath our feet…

    • http://www.searingarrow.com AlienSix

      Done with your doom and gloom death march yet?

    • Seth_p

      Have enough coffee today?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Viki-Maverick/100002523433166 Viki Maverick

      Are you on crack or are you an Apple fanboy who finds everything that they make magical and are so blinded that you cant see the obvious.

      “Redmond era of dominance is over” was really going over the top. Be rational in making statements.

    • So Many Heads In The Sand
    • Penta2100

      Cool Story Bro

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Viki-Maverick/100002523433166 Viki Maverick

      Are you on crack or are you an Apple fanboy who finds everything that they make magical and are so blinded that you cant see the obvious.

      “Redmond era of dominance is over” was really going over the top. Be rational in making statements.

    • Matthewmsft

      you confudle me.

    • C Brown

      Your implication that 400 million windows 7 licenses will disappear before our very eyes seems odd. While you might not think that Win 8 is going to be as good as the hype, if those licenese stay around for half as long as people did on XP. It seems MS will be around for a little while longer no ?
      Unless we convert all Windows licenses to windows 8  and then onto another OS it still seems a long shot…
      Unless you know something we dont ?

  • Guest

    Windows 8: What we know so far: It’ll fail! It’s DOA! No one is going to use that over their iPads! HAHAHAHAHA! We’re all enjoying not having to worry about any viruses, and actually getting things done! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Don’t forget your Metro registry cleaners! You’re gonna need them! HAHAHAHAHA!

    • Anonymous

      actually I’m just worry about you.

    • Anonymous

      You can actually get things done on an iPad other then read and play games?

    • Anonymous

      again you?… like i said, how can you compared widnows os to ipad?… i dont care if you like ipad, but i need windows for playing videogames AND working, yeah, im not an idiot like you using my computer just to write stupid comments. i use it to 3d designing in 3dsmax which is windows only… see, the difference? oh yeah, and like i said, i dont need to worry about antivirus, i have common sense of what i download and what i do with my computer.

    • Prakash Heda

       You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in future posts….you are warned:)

    • Penta2100

      The os will also come out onto ARM. there aren’t any viruses for windows ARM because it’s not even released yet. Get your facts straight troll

  • Windows8

    it isn’t nice to hear

  • Windows8

    it isn’t nice to hear

  • Guest

    One thing I REALLY hope they’ll fix:
    Try to safely remove an external drive that is used by some applications. Windows doesn’t tell you which application is using it, so you can’t close the application.

  • Anonymous

    Looks promising.

    What will happen when you install programs that add shortcuts to Start menu?

    I hope they add and improve animations and transitions in the UI.

    Also hope they fix that multitasking in the Metro Start screen, when you swipe it should bring up like a flat film roll with all the running applications, the way it is now, if you have 10 programs running, you’d have to constantly do that swiping gesture to get to the application you want.

    “Chatter” is hopefully Skype rebranded… that would be pretty huge and handy!

    Overall really interested how they do, if they actually manage to pull off the PC/Tablet functionality perfectly, they might damage the iPad sales considerably! Who’ll want an iPad when you can buy a Windows 8 tablet that has a tablet UI and also a full blown OS when you want? And if that takes off, Intel should be scared, really scared!

    Hopefully there are more interesting new features to be revealed at BUILD.

  • Anonymous

    Looks promising.

    What will happen when you install programs that add shortcuts to Start menu?

    I hope they add and improve animations and transitions in the UI.

    Also hope they fix that multitasking in the Metro Start screen, when you swipe it should bring up like a flat film roll with all the running applications, the way it is now, if you have 10 programs running, you’d have to constantly do that swiping gesture to get to the application you want.

    “Chatter” is hopefully Skype rebranded… that would be pretty huge and handy!

    Overall really interested how they do, if they actually manage to pull off the PC/Tablet functionality perfectly, they might damage the iPad sales considerably! Who’ll want an iPad when you can buy a Windows 8 tablet that has a tablet UI and also a full blown OS when you want? And if that takes off, Intel should be scared, really scared!

    Hopefully there are more interesting new features to be revealed at BUILD.

  • Matthewmsft

    I luv it, but i think the new start screen looks more like MSDOS Executive than Win7 :)

  • Anonymous

    Windows 8 looks awesome. /pumped

  • Windows8

    Mac, Ubuntu and Windows are friends… peace please… don’t fight… ¡ok?

  • Anonymous

    Meh, they’re just copying the OS X features again.

    • Penta2100

      WHERE! where are they copying the OS X features troll? please list them so i can see. And if you say History Vault you are wrong. this was a feature in windows 7  when you right click  it says restore previous version. and im pretty sure thats where OS X Lion got that idea from

    • thatguy

      Okay, I only have one thing to say to you. Idiot! You are in the wrong place

  • J-mac

    While others are going to move icons from side to side for the rest of their lives i’m going to use this super hot stuff every single f****** day… in your face suckers!

  • Ray Stevens

    That’s not the Start menu! Every single news outlet has used the same cropped image from the full image in the video. It’s the options for the file screen! Watch the video and see the FULL image.