We love this time of the year, not just because of the holidays, but also for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). From January 6-9, 2011, companies will gather in Las Vegas to show off new and upcoming products, some of which will be in the concept stage and may never become an actual shipping product.
Windows 8 isn't one of those concept products, but according to a report in The New York Times, Steve Ballmer may show off Redmond's next generation operating system at CES, at least that's what they're hearing from a "person with knowledge of Microsoft's plans."
According to NYT's various sources, Ballmer and Co. also plan to unveil a slew of tablets built by Samsung, Dell, and several other manufacturing partners. One of the more promising slates is a Samsung device that will include a slide-out keyboard and most likely run Windows 7.
On the 25th anniversary of Windows, we examine the future of Microsoft's flagship operating system
For what it’s worth, the first 25 years of our lives weren’t that smooth, either. So forgive us for favoring words like “commemorate” or “contemplate” instead of “celebrate,” which feels like too rosy a word for an operating system that has given us so much frustration, confusion, and heartache. Hey, maybe now that it’s 25, Windows will behave like a grown-up.
For better or for worse, the fact remains that on November 20, 1985, Microsoft released the very first version of Windows. If we asked you to use just a single word to define the 25-year history of Microsoft’s OS, we’re betting that “erratic” would pop up 70 times out of 100. There are a lot less-accurate descriptions.
Instead of recounting the very well-known past of the venerable OS—we’re sure that we’ll all see countless retrospectives, timelines, and detailed histories online—we decided it would be more interesting to peer into the future. These are wild and woolly times for Microsoft, Apple, and even Google as each company tries to give users the digital equivalent of the moon in exchange for a lifetime of loyalty. Based on the leak published earlier this summer, it’s clear that Microsoft has already given ample consideration and thought to Windows 8, or whatever the next version will be named.
To shed some light on the matter, we decided to ask a handful of the world’s leading independent PC manufacturers what they’ve heard and what features and functionality they’d like to see in the next big Windows release. A few people were OK going on the record, but most preferred to keep their comments anonymous or on a “background only “basis.
We also checked in with our Lab (of course), and with you, our readers, via our Facebook Fan page. To cap off our story, Reviews Editor Michael Brown reports on his hands-on experience with the beta of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Home Server V2, which we expect will release later this year.
Imparted wisdom, thoughts, facts, and some outright guesses are inside.
The next major version of Windows is due to arrive in about two years, Microsoft let slip in a blog post on its Dutch website. That info was apparently supposed to be kept under wraps, as the software juggernaut has gone and removed all references to Windows 8 and replaced it with talk about the first Service Pack for Windows 7.
Should Microsoft release Windows 8 two years from now, that would put a three-year gap between it and Windows 7, which launched in October 2009. According to leaked slides that have popped up on the Web, the next version of Windows will include a faster startup, facial recognition as a security option, improved tablet support, and perhaps an app store.
In the meantime, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 is due to arrive in the first half of 2011, the Dutch blog post mentions.
The expression “kids say the darndest things” gets just about anyone under the age of 10 off the hook for bizarre remarks, but Microsoft PR is likely looking for someway to spin Steve Ballmer’s latest comments into this category as well following a recent interview at the Gartner Symposium. During the one-on-one with ZDnet’s Larry Dignan, Ballmer claimed that “the next version of Windows” was Microsoft’s “riskiest bet”. Given that such a large percentage of Microsoft’s revenue comes from Windows, this probably wasn’t the best thing to admit in a public forum, but his honesty certainly does give us lots to write about!
This begs the question, why is Steve so worried about Windows 8? ZDnet’s Mary Jo Foley speculated that it could be because Microsoft’s next operating system is rumored to be a radical departure from Windows 7, but since nothing has been officially confirmed by the company, we still have very little to go on. Leaked feature slides claim Windows 8 is going to be faster booting, have more advanced biometric security support, and maybe even an app store. Sure these are interesting features to a select few, but not exactly what most people would consider “risky”.
The more likely explanation is simply the natural fear built into Microsoft after the launch of Windows Vista. In many ways Vista failed because they tried to change core aspects of the operating system too quickly, and the compatibility problems caused a backlash that they are only now starting to recover from.
So should they make radical changes and risk another Vista? Or should they simply continue tweaking the UI and risk not making a compelling case to upgrade in two years time?
Firewire's long-term prognosis isn't looking very good at the moment. It's no longer uncommon for motherboards to ship without a Firewire port on the rear I/O panel, and though most mobos support the spec internally, you're now more likely to find an eSATA port integrated into your case than a Firewire port.
But the most damning piece of evidence that Firewire might be on its way out is a leaked Windows 8 slide indicating that Microsoft's next OS will sport better support for USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 3.0, but makes no mention of Firewire whatsoever. You might recall that Apple created quite a stink a couple of years ago when the Cupertino company dropped Firewire support from its MacBook line, but would Microsoft see the same kind of backlash if it were to drop Firewire when Windows 8 ships?
Firewire remains popular in the video and audio industries where users are quick to point out the faster transfer rates when compared to USB 2.0. But with USB 3.0 starting to take hold, the tide may be turning in its favor.
Are you ready to let go of Firewire, or should Microsoft continue to support the interface in Windows 8?
Microsoft's follow up the highly successful Windows 7 is already under development, and the first solid details have been disclosed to hardware partners. The leak comes in the form of some PowerPoint slides apparently provided to several manufacturers. The aptly named Windows 8 is said to focus on a number of issues that have been called out by reviewers and users alike.
Windows 8 is going to see a streamlined, faster start up and improved Hibernate support. There will be facial recognition login baked into the OS. Of course, Internet Explorer 9 will come preinstalled. One thing that we find really interesting is a so-called "Push-Button Reset" that would basically reinstall Windows without touching your files, applications, or settings. If true, it could be a giant leap forward in assuring system stability, but it sounds too much like magic to us.
On last thing that the leaked slides point to is a feature we're a little confused about. There will apparently be a Windows App Store in the new OS. It's unclear what that means. Will it just be a place to showcase high quality Windows applications, or a special repository that developers will submit apps to? Do any of these supposed features give you the warm fuzzies?
Microsoft is having a Windows conference in May, but don’t get your hopes up, no Windows 8 news is expected. The so-called Windows Summit is designed to help software and hardware makers to develop products and services that work well with the current versions of Windows and Internet Explorer. The Three day event is currently scheduled for May 25-27.
According to a Microsoft statement to Cnet, they are looking to attract developers “who are looking to engage with Microsoft on an intimate level or who haven't engaged with Microsoft in the past 18 months.” Sounds awkward. A (hopefully not as awkward) keynote will be given by Microsoft General Manager Mike Angiulo. Registration for the event will cost $399.
The conference will probably not contain any big news, to our dismay. Attendees are not even required to sign non-disclosure agreements. It seems like Microsoft is looking to reach out to new developers, and encourage them to work on Windows 7 and IE8. We have an idea how Microsoft could get said developers fired up. It involves a certain sweaty CEO pumping his fists and chanting “developers”. Who wouldn’t love that?
But what’s Windows 8 going to be like? One Microsoft employee, purportedly working on Windows 8, let his exuberance get the better of him and posted this on an MSDN blog (which has since been deleted but, because you can’t hide your sins once posted, has been cached): “The minimum that folks can take for granted is that the next version will be something completely different from what folks usually expect of Windows...The themes that have been floated truly reflect what people have been looking for [for] years and it will change the way people think about PCs and the way they use them. It is the future of PCs…”
So, Windows 8 will be “different from what folks usually expect of Windows,” “what people have been looking for”, and “will change the way people think about PCs”. There are some obvious responses to these proclamations: good, competent, useful, but, one suspects, Microsoft will be aiming a bit higher than this for Windows 8.
In another Windows 8 comment, John Magelarrs, Regional Vice President of Consumer and Online at Microsoft EMA said: “For me, Windows 8 will be mind-blowing.” There you have it--a whole lot more of nothing.
All this leaves Steven Chapman, at Microsoft Kitchen, wondering “just what in the heck Steven Sinofsky and crew are cooking up for Windows 8.” The best guess he can venture is that Windows 8 will be 64-bit only. Well, if it’s going to be mind-blowing, that’s the least we should expect.
It seems like just yesterday we were putting on our cardigans and hamming it up with complete strangers at our Windows 7 party, and that's because it kind of was. And with Redmond's latest OS barely three months old, there's already talk of Windows 8, including a release date that was supposedly leaked to the Web.
According to news and rumor site Fudzilla, former Microsoft employee Chris Green drew up a chart detailing Microsoft's roadmap for future product releases. In it, he reveals the following release schedule:
WIndows 8: July 1, 2011
Windows Server 2012: July 2, 2012
Office 2012: July 2, 2012
SQL Server 2011: July 1, 2011
SharePoint Server 2013: July 1, 2013
Exchange 2013: July 1, 2013
OCS 2010: December 1, 2010
These are all RTM (Release to Manufacturing) dates, and if they're legit, it means Microsoft plans to pull-forward the Windows 8 RTM date from what would typically be a three-year interval between OSes.
An interesting Microsoft product roadmap has turned up. The document shows the year 2012 as the tentative timeframe for a “major release” code named Windows 8. This would put it at about three years out from the release of Windows 7. The interval between Vista and Win 7 was also three years. This could signal a new regular release cycle for Microsoft. No indication if the “code name” will stick, or if Redmond will decide to change naming schemes once again.
Vista was pushed back three years from its original release date after much of the code was scrapped. If this image is to be believed, Microsoft is confident in its ability to avoid such delays again. The timeframe fits with previous rumors we’ve heard, so there’s no reason to be overly skeptical.
Is the three year plan reasonable? We’ll have to wait and see what Microsoft can cook up in another three years.