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Windows 8: What is it, when is it coming out, why will I need it?

May 9, 2012

Windows 8 may not be available for your computer until October 2012. But when it does, this latest Microsoft operating system may change the very meaning of the Windows PC.
The new operating system for the Windows PC has a mouse, keyboard and a touchscreen, or both. This system functions like a desktop, laptop, and a tablet. How does it do this? It runs an ARM system-on-chip CPU as today’s tablets do, or a traditional x86 chip from Intel or AMD. It has a taskbar, icons, and windowed programs, but it also has a Start screen, tiles, and full-screen immersive applications.
There has not been such a dramatic change in the operating system since Windows 95. With Windows 95, people lined up around the block at midnight sales to get it. The question is does this last version of Microsoft’s operating system create the same intensity again? You can be the judge.

This is what we know about the new system.
1. In place of a taskbar full of applications and a desktop packed with shortcut icons, your screen consists of a grid of tiles.
2. As with icons, clicking or tapping a tile launches an application; unlike icons, the tiles display useful data. An example, the weather tile, for instance, displays the current weather even when you don’t launch the weather app.
3. If you’ve seen Windows Phone 7, you’ll immediately recognize this new design style, which Microsoft calls “Metro.” In Windows 8, whether you’re using a touchscreen tablet or a powerful keyboard-and mouse desktop PC (or anything in between), the default interface is a horizontal Metro-style grid of tiles that are arranged into customizable groups.
4. Applications made for this new interface work like tablet apps and display well on smaller screens with finger driven interfaces.
5. What does that mean? It means no minimize or maximize buttons, no scrollbars, and no drop-down menus. Swipe in from the right side of your tablet or touchscreen PC, and you’re presented with Windows 8.

If these five points don’t make you get your blanket’s out to stand in line for the newest operating system. A comparison of the system requirements and improvements will have you finding your hand warms to defend against the cool and rainy October fall weather off. The system requirements are an improvement in system requirements, hardware support, cloud features, security, and performance. Here is a summary of the improvements.

System requirements
Windows 7: IGHz processor, IGB of RAI^, 20G8 of hard-disk space, DirectX 9 graphics card.
Windows 8: Same as Windows 7, though it may use even fewer resources. Also supports select ARM system-on-chips.

Hardware support:
Windows 7: Needs third-party drivers for USB 3.0, printers, orientation sensors, and cellular data modems
Windows 8: Built-in support for USB 3.0, many printers, lots of sensor types, and cellular data modems

Cloud Features:
Windows 7: Users must install third-party apps to sync files or settings: cloud data not universally accessible to applications
Windows 8: Log in with Live ID, and settings, data, and Metro apps sync automatically. Some cloud services’ data available to all Metro apps.

Windows 7: Windows Defender combats spyware only. TPM for encrypted hard drives. SmartScreen filter in IE 8 and IE 9.
Windows 8: Defender upgraded to fight all malware types. TPM extends to hardware verification. SmartScreen filter throughout OS.

Windows 7: Faster and more efficient than Vista.
Windows 8: Faster and more efficient than Windows 7 (in prebeta form).

Windows 8 is a lot more than a new interface. It has features to benefit everyone, even if you’re using a standard PC with no touchscreen and you plan to spend most of your time in that good old desktop environment. Thanks to a new memory manager and serious optimization efforts, the current early version of Windows 8 actually uses fewer resources than Windows 7.

The Windows 8 systems—prebeta, to be sure—with boot times so fast that we could hardly believe they were running Windows. If you are tired of managing printer drivers, Windows 8 introduces a “class driver” for printers, like those used today for keyboards, mice, and USB devices. Just plug in your printer, and it should work; most printers that support Windows 7 work with the class driver USB 3.0 gets native support, too. As for developers, they can look forward to standardized interfaces to deal with touchscreens (such screens are far more responsive in Windows 8 than in Windows 7) and with a wealth of sensors found on mobile devices—accelerometers, gyroscopes, electronic compasses, and so on.

The new Restart and Refresh features should prove popular Restart returns your PC to its out-of-the-box condition in 10 or 15 minutes, wiping all user data—perfect for selling or donating a computer you’re replacing. Refresh keeps all your user profiles, data, and Metro-style apps from the Windows Store, while returning everything else to a clean slate. It’s like reinstalling Windows and copying back all your data, but it will be one-click easy and considerably faster Power users will Love the new Task Manager I t has received a face-lift that displays useful data about your running processes, gives better at-a-glance info on system performance, and incorporates the startup configuration capabilities of Msconfig. Multimonitor users can better control how the taskbar operates, and easily choose which display the Start screen appears on.
For businesses and IT managers, Microsoft throws in a host of new tools. including built-in Hyper-V virtualization on the client, enhanced remote desktop capabilities, and the ability to run Windows 8—complete with applications and data—from a USB device. Explorer has a new layout and Ribbon interface to make more-common commands easier to access, and you can directly mount VHD and ISO files without needing any extra software.
Microsoft has yet to reveal all the tricks in the Windows 8 goody bag. Even so, it’s easy to be positive about the bold direction that Microsoft is clearly taking. And although such dramatic changes are sure to alienate some users, they are needed if Windows is to remain relevant as an operating system for the next several years.

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