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Summary:

It’s being rumored that Windows 8 could make its debut next week, even though release isn’t actually slated to occur until 2012. Here’s a list of the features that are likely to be included in Windows 8 that I’m most looking forward to seeing:

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It’s being rumored that Windows 8  could possibly make its debut as early as next week, even though release may not actually occur until 2012 or early 2013. Despite being primarily a Mac user, I really like Windows 7, and if the rumor mill is to be be believed there are some pretty tasty features lined up for the next version of Microsoft’s OS, particularly for us web workers.

Here’s a list of the features, products and technologies that are likely to be included in Windows 8 that I’m most looking forward to seeing:

  1. Roaming profiles and cloud working. With the release of Office Web Apps, it was obvious that Microsoft had finally caught on that many of us are now working in the cloud. With Windows 8, integrated cloud features are coming to the desktop OS, too. According to some leaked presentations detailing updates for Windows 8, “Roaming profiles” will enable users to bring selected settings (like mouse, network and taskbar preferences) with them via the cloud just by logging into a machine with their “online” password, which will presumably be linked to a Windows Live account. This should offer a much more streamlined way to move between different computers (and mobile devices, as Windows 8 will also be available for tablets). When coupled with Office Web Apps and file storage via Windows Live Skydrive, this feature should mean being being able to log off from one machine, and then on logging into any other Windows 8 machine instantly being able to resume work, with all of your files, apps and settings available.
  2. Portable Workspaces. Another feature that will help users to take their work with them, portable workspaces can put a runnable copy of Windows 8 onto a USB stick to boot any computer. It’s described in a leaked screenshot of a setup window as “a feature that allows you to run Windows from a USB storage device.” It sounds great, but there are a few caveats, however. Apparently you’ll need a USB stick with a hefty capacity (at least 16GB) to be able to use Portable Workspaces, and it will also only be available to Enterprise Edition customers. Additionally, I’m sure there will be many restrictions in place to stop users abusing the feature to make illegal copies of the OS.
  3. Hybrid boot. Tired of sitting around, waiting around for a machine to boot up? Windows 8’s hybrid boot is a cross between a full system shutdown and hibernation. By hibernating selected core system files, startup time can be greatly shortened, typically reducing it to around 20 seconds, according to some reports.
  4. Windows Store. Following Apple’s lead, Microsoft will include an app store with the new OS, possibly to be called Windows Store. I’m looking forward to this because an app store will make it easy to discover interesting and useful new apps, and also because an App Store and its potential revenues will encourage developers to spend time developing niche software that would probably otherwise have to be a labor of love, or released as shareware. It should also make for easier application updates, and also make it simple for users to install the same set of apps on other Windows machines. There is plenty of  interesting and useful software for the Mac in Apple’s App Store, so I’m really looking forward to seeing whether Microsoft’s version will provide similar choice for Windows 8.
  5. Internet Explorer 10. After leaving neglecting its browser for years, Microsoft picked up its game with the release of IE9, which included a much snappier JavaScript processor and greatly improved support for web standards, and in particular the newer web technologies like HTML5, which modern web apps are beginning to rely upon. It’s likely that the browser that ships with Windows 8 will be IE10, which should build on the foundations laid with IE9 and offer even greater support for the newer web standards, which should lead to even richer web experiences for everyone.
  6. Bundled PDF Reader. Another feature that’s following Apple’s lead, Windows 8 will come with its very own simple PDF reader. Dubbed Modern Reader, it is built using the new Windows 8 AppX technology, which means it should work in both desktop and mobile environments.
  7. History vault. This is an automated backup utility that works in a very similar manner to Apple’s Time Machine. Users will be able to restore and edit documents from points in time via an easy-to-use graphical interface.
  8. Skype integration. Finally, given Microsoft’s recent acquisition of popular VoIP provider Skype, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Skype features integrated into the OS.

What rumored Windows 8 features are you most looking forward to?

Windows logo courtesy Microsoft.

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  1. The name is more likely to be “Windows Marketplace” so it bears no resemblance to the phrase “App Store”, plus it lines up with previous stores Microsoft has operated.

    Windows 8 really needs to be “cloud-based” such that 99.9% of the things I need to work with can be accessible via the web. That’d really be pushing the boundaries to have a more Chrome OS-like experience where data is stored in the cloud and it’s rather hard to “loose” it. And Apple would be behind a cycle because their cloud strategy outright sucks!

    1. I think it’s likely to have quite a few cloud-based features, but I doubt it’ll get anywhere near what you’re thinking of, Jeff. It would be a bit too radical to expect MSFT to wholly embrace the cloud, I think :)

  2. Great to see so many cool features on the list. I’m a little skeptical of the success of a classic multi-year waterfall-style development effort from Microsoft: possibly 2013? Really?? That’s no way to keep ahead of the curve in fast-moving times like these. IMHO.

    But I like the featureset and I am one of those who believe that Microsoft *can* really seize the brass ring and provide real innovation in Windows — the likes of which haven’t been seen for at least 10-15 years. I agree with @Jeff that Microsoft needs to integrate a seamless vision of the cloud, first and foremost.

    There are several features that I think are killer, and which I wrote about, including an “application workspace,” which are basically a combination of a roaming profile and “portable workspaces”:
    http://softwarekeith.com/2010/10/03/better-ux-a-call-for-application-workspaces/

    The other true killer feature I hope they include and execute well: BACKUP, which is being called the “history vault.” Microsoft could score a huge hit by rolling with the punch line “Use Windows 8 and never lose a file again. Ever.”

    And finally, the hybrid boot technology is cool. After getting turned on to SSD’s (solid state drives), I would never go back to booting off a normal, spinning “legacy” hard drive. In my hopeful version of it, I envisioned Microsoft being able to provision the fast boot drive (the SSD) with OS files and apps, while intelligently using larger legacy drives for big data and big media (pics, MP3s, videos,etc.)
    http://computingkeith.com/2010/08/03/ssd-are-you-experienced

    Great article, here’s to hoping MS gets it right. (Can’t hide the though.)

    1. thanks for the comment, Keith. Some analysts do think it will be late 2012/early 2013, personally I am also hoping to see it sooner than that.

      I really like the application workspaces idea — think it might be a step tio far for this release, but we’ll have to wait and see.

      1. Love to see it earlier, too, Simon. To Rebecca’s point (below), we have DropBox, Time Machine, and other cool online services that have already been around for a while. Why should it take Microsoft 2-3 YEARS to add stuff like this to Windows. It’s clear to me that MS is losing relevancy in today’s world — as much as I am a MS guy, career-wise.

        I believe in five years or so, we’ll see MS relegated primarily to the business space, where innovation and agility don’t matter as much.

  3. Great to see Microsoft finally implementing features that apple has had for a while now

    1. Simon Mackie D Friday, May 27, 2011

      Some of these have indeed been in OS X for a while (App Store, Time Machine) but some of the coolest features are new (roaming profiles, for example).

  4. Ballmer’s lose let the release date of 2012 slip earlier this week. And as for Windows Next, the Microsoft name for the OS as of now and probably will be named Windows 8, it will have cloud integration but only limited. I think the most important thing is that Windows Next will run on tablets; the tablet UI will be shown next week (rumor).

    1. Yes, but Microsoft swiftly backtracked on supposedly slipped release date. We’ll see!

  5. I like Windows7 too. It boots faster on my Mac than Snow Leopard.

    The issue for Msft is that Apple is winning the ecosystem war, not the OS war. I like Windows7 but I’m invested in Mac h/w, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and iTunes to seamlessly manage media and apps. Windows needs to build a better ecosystem with more innovative partners than HP and Dell. Sony is a decent h/w designer but their reliability and support sucks.

    1. Agreed, especially with more workplaces adopting a “bring your own” policy.

  6. it is has better features

  7. Kevin Warhus Friday, May 27, 2011

    Sounds awesome. I can’t wait for Windows 8. I loved the features to Windows 7 and am very excited to see what they do this time around. What I really want from my next Windows OS is some more mac mouse features. Those are so cool! When will PC start closing that gap a little more aggressively?

  8. David Scott Friday, May 27, 2011

    Skype could very well be MSFT answer to FaceTime. History vault could be their answer to time machine. Apple is innovating, and everyone’s comparison of budding technologies to what Apple is already doing is certainly a clear sign of market domination.

    That said, I would be cautious in thinking that Microsoft is simply reacting to the market. They’ve still got a few smart ones left on staff, and I have a feeling a techie breakthrough isn’t too far off. I’m not a huge Microsoft supporter, but I don’t ignore the elephant in the room, either.

  9. Roaming profiles and cloud working? Roaming profiles are just a tweak away by using dropbox, Xmarks or something alike as a reference and ThinkFree Office already had cloud working at a far more reasonable price.
    Portable Workspaces? Linux already runs portable from a USB.
    Hybrid boot? “Typically”? The article reads “approximately” and doesn’t mention the hardware profile used to test it.
    Windows Store? Obviously Linux and Mac have their own (with Ubuntu even selling software on it!).
    Internet Explorer 10? Will it only run on Win8? Will we have to provide conditionals to make stuff work on it as well? Will they kill IE7 and IE8?
    Integrated PDF reader? Linux has it too.
    History Vault? Mac has Time machine, Linux had rsync and then in 2007 someone began writing TimeVault.
    Skype Integration << This is interesting… Did they buy it because they saw people preferring it to [hotmail|msn|live] messenger? Will they keep their commitment to other OSes? Not so important since someone will always come with another innovation later.

    How many of this will even be real when 2013 comes? How many of this will be there for usage at home over a "home premium" license?
    Sorry but, IMHO, real innovation seems to be happening in other camps and, yet again, Microsoft seems to me to be playing catch up.

    I think web workers should look forward to Google Chrome OS, Android apps working on Linux or the usually more refined Apple response.

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