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Windows 8 and WinRT - A Close Encounter with Microsoft

by Anand Narayanaswamy on Jan 17, 2013 |

Windows 8 includes new start screen which provide easy access to your contacts, social media channels, e-mails and calendar. It provides an ability to customize and organize the content which should be displayed on the start dashboard.

Windows 8 is optimized for touch which enables you to easily interact with the content using swipe, tap and drag gestures. It also includes several mobile productivity features and enhanced security capabilities such as Trusted Boot and BitLocker. The operating system includes Microsoft Mail, Calendar, SkyDrive, Photos, People and Messaging apps that automatically sync with your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.

Along with Windows 8, Microsoft launched Windows Store where you can search thousands of categorized apps that are used in WinRT powered devices such as Microsoft Surface.

InfoQ had a chat with Microsoft official spokesperson (who prefers not to be identified) and quizzed him about the various aspects of Windows 8 and Windows RT.

InfoQ: With Windows 8 a complete major redesign from existing design, how do you plan to educate existing users to make the transition smooth?

Please see the Windows blog post from Tami Reller’s Credit Suisse presentation, which indicates that as of November 27, Microsoft has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses. In addition, Tami stated the following user statistics:
  • Customers understand Windows 8 – telemetry data shows that over 90% of people find and use the charms on the very first day of use, over 85% find and launch the desktop and almost 50% visit the store on that same first day.
  • People may experience benefits on their existing PCs like battery life extended by up to 13 percent, boot time improved by up to 36 percent – and on new PCs, a cold start time of less than 10 seconds.

InfoQ: What sort of new security mechanisms are present in new generation of Win 8 platforms (to combat virus, spams, spyware and malware)?

We have made many security investments in Windows 8, building upon the work done to improve security in Windows 7. All of these investments give us great confidence that Windows 8 will be the most secure operating system we’ve produced. From power-on to power-off, Windows 8 provides a more secure foundation no matter where people choose to do their work.
  • Trusted Boot helps protect the end-to-end boot process and virtually eliminates the possibility for malware to hijack the boot process or hide from antimalware software. On Windows-based devices with UEFI the authorized OS loader is the first piece of software that starts, than the antimalware is loaded, protecting the integrity of the full system through the boot process and so it prevents Windows 8 device from being tampered with.
  • Measured Boot validates, signs, and stores boot information in the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip. This enables a remote service to validate a computer’s integrity (called remote attestation).
  • BitLocker drive encryption helps protect corporate data on mobile PCs that include a TPM chip. On Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise editions, BitLocker now encrypts hard drives more quickly, helping to keep data safe without significantly interrupting people’s productivity. BitLocker now supports encrypted drives – hard drives that come pre-encrypted from the manufacturer – and gives IT the ability to encrypt only the data on the disk – not the entire volume, which can significantly increase performance.
  • AppLocker helps prevent unapproved or potentially harmful apps by allowing IT administrators to specify exactly the apps that are allowed to run on employees’ PCs. On Windows 8 Enterprise, AppLocker uses Group Policy to allow or restrict the types of files that people can use, including both desktop apps and new Windows app.
  • Windows SmartScreen services help protect people from malicious sites and software that they might encounter on the Internet. If this is turned on at startup, the technologies check the reputation of any new app or website, helping to keep users safe no matter what browser they’re using.

InfoQ:  It is very confusing what the new ecosystem offers - Windows 8, Win RT, Win RT Pro. In this context, will the apps be compatible across these platforms.

There is one Windows Store. With a Microsoft account, you can see all of the apps you bought from the Store and you can install any of those apps on up to five Windows 8 and/or Windows RT devices.

InfoQ: Can I work with Word documents, Excel spread sheets and PowerPoint presentations created in Windows 8 in Surface?

Windows RT machines (including Surface) include Office Home & Student 2013 RT. Windows 8 customers can choose the Office that best suits their needs. Customers can also use Office Web Apps, the free online web companions.

InfoQ: How do you envision the market share of windows in coming 5 years in desktop/server/mobile space?

We are excited for what’s to come and the existing momentum we’re seeing with Windows 8. We have nothing to share beyond that.

InfoQ: Mobile space is especially headed towards high competition and what is Microsoft doing to lure and attract developers?

We are working with a wide range of app developers who are creating compelling apps for Windows 8. We are thrilled with the apps we have in the Windows Store and expect more to come. Developers are excited about the ability to write apps in the languages they work with today, including web developers who can leverage their HTML/JavaScript skills. And there is excitement about the developer opportunity with the massive global reach of Windows combined with industry-leading revenue sharing terms.

InfoQ: As a company is Microsoft shifting towards gaming (Xbox) and mobile more than before?

Whether people prefer to use a tablet, laptop or desktop PC, we have engineered our products to support a variety of computing setups. With Windows 8, we’ve taken this approach to the next level with the introduction of products—such as our Wedge Touch Mouse and Wedge Mobile Keyboard—that help to bridge the gap between various devices by allowing users to transform their tablet - a content consumption device—into a mobile workstation. We designed Windows 8 to be easy and intuitive no matter how you use it: touch, mouse or keyboard.

InfoQ: Can you share with us the details of Windows 8 versions?

Windows 8 is available in three editions: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and an Enterprise Edition. For many consumers, Windows 8 will be the right choice.

Windows 8 Pro is designed to help tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals obtain a broader set of Windows 8 technologies. It includes all the features in Windows 8 plus features for encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity. Windows Media Center is available as an economical “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro. If you are an enthusiast or you want to use your PC in a business environment, you will want Windows 8 Pro.

An Enterprise edition of Windows 8 is also available. Please see The Windows Blog for more information.

InfoQ: In what way Microsoft Surface is different from other similar devices/tablet available in the market?

Surface is unique and represents amazing value. It’s a great tablet, provides an amazing entertainment experience, and you can also use Surface to get stuff done.

Surface has a widescreen HD display that provides a larger view of your TV shows and movies. It feels great in the hands and when you want to put it down, Surface’s integrated kickstand is always there when you need it, and it disappears and doesn’t get in the way when you don’t.

Want to get something done, simply click in either Touch Cover, a unique and innovative pressure sensitive keyboard that’s 3mm thin and doubles as a cover that protects your screen and is available in a variety of colors so people can express their personal style, or Type Cover, which adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel that’s only 2mm more.

Surface with Windows RT starts at USD $499 for the 32GB version. The device also comes with a full size USB, enabling connectivity with literally hundreds of millions of devices, as well as a microSD card slot for adding almost limitless storage. Microsoft is scheduled to released Surface Windows 8 Pro in the first quarter of 2013.

InfoQ: Does Microsoft think Surface will serve as a replacement for traditional desktop/laptop?

No, we are excited about the new devices our hardware partners are bringing to market - many of which are spotlighted on Microsoft News Center OEM Newsroom. In many regards, there has never been a better time to buy a new Windows-based PC or tablet with all the exciting form factor choices and the new possibilities for computing.

InfoQ: Does Microsoft think the current pricing structure will attract people to purchase the device?

Microsoft and our OEM partners very much understand what market expectations are for different technologies, and we feel comfortable that the range of Windows 8 and Windows RT device price points represent an excellent value when compared with the other offerings in the market.

InfoQ: How will you convince buyers to make a purchase decision?

We believe we offer competitive offers and price points. Currently, customers are able to upgrade existing Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 versions to Windows 8 Pro through two promotional tracks. Windows 8 Pro is available for download in 140 markets and 37 languages at www.windows.com for estimated retail price (ERP) $39.99 US or at retail stores on DVD for (ERP) $69.99 US (other markets will be available in local currencies).

Alternatively, those who purchase a qualifying new Windows 7 PCs through January 31, 2013 will be eligible to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro when it becomes available via download for ERP $14.99 US or via installation DVD for an additional fee. Those who qualify for this offer can register and download Windows 8 Pro from www.windowsupgradeoffer.com through February 28, 2013.

InfoQ: Is it possible to connect to a remote desktop using Microsoft Surface?

Surface Windows RT comes preinstalled with a Remote Desktop client that functions just like the ones you are accustomed to in Windows 7.

InfoQ: Is it possible to connect Surface to an external monitor and make use of a mouse to operate the device?

Yes (to both questions)

InfoQ: Can you share with us about the availability of Surface in India?

Currently, Surface is not available for purchase in India. We have nothing to share at this time regarding additional market availability.

InfoQ: Zune player released by Microsoft few years back was not much popular outside USA especially in India. In this context, does Microsoft have any special plans to tap Asian markets for Surface?

Currently, Surface Windows RT is available in China, Hong Kong and Australia in APAC markets. Outside of that, we have nothing to share regarding additional market availability at this time.

InfoQ: Is it possible to install other operating systems such as Ubuntu from within Windows 8 as a Virtual Machine (VM) without using third party tools like VMWare and VirtualBox?

We have no comment on other operating systems outside of Windows.

InfoQ: We recently came across a third party tool named Pokki which when installed brings back Start menu on Windows 8. Does Microsoft encourage users to make use of this tool?

We have no specific comment on Pokki. As for Windows 8, whether you are using Windows 8 with touch, mouse and keyboard, or both, Windows 8 and the UI is designed to be highly intuitive and easy to use. Your favorite apps, even your favorite people can be pinned to the start screen for easy access. Live tiles keep you always up to date. Windows 8 will work the same and offer the same great experience on which ever form factor is right for you.

The desktop is part of the Windows 8 no-compromises experience. You will see that the familiar desktop taskbar, settings, and features are still there. It's always available in Windows 8 and Windows RT, either as a tile on your Start screen, or by using Windows key + D.

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