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What Features Are Desirable for Windows 8?

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A number of Windows 8 slides leaked on the Internet, disclosing Microsoft’s plans for the next version of its operating system: hardware supporting touch and voice control, frictionless UX, tablets, faster startup, an app store. Miguel de Icaza, father of Mono, has expressed what he would like to see in Windows 8: sandboxed execution system, no-install apps, a public contract for extension points.

The Italian Windows website Windowsette published a number of leaked presentation slides allegedly shared by Microsoft with partner PC makers detailing the major hardware, software and other features planned for Windows 8. Following is an excerpt of the most interesting features planned. (Microsoft Kitchen contains a more detailed look at the slides.)

Hardware. According the the document, Microsoft plans on relying on hardware providing:

  • High-quality touch experience
  • HD Video
  • Voice Control
  • Infrared proximity sensor
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Proximity-based sleep/wake
  • Screen light adjusting based on room ambient lightning
  • Face recognition-based login

User Experience. The document points to Apple’s approach to UX which heavily relies in frictionless interaction with the computer. A successful PC would be one that “just works” and the design make people feel confident in using it, leading to product satisfaction.

Windows Identity. The plan is to evolve from a machine-centric approach to a user-centric one. User accounts will remain important but more emphasis will be put on fast user switching and roaming. That includes cloud integration, or having the ability to access various resources in the cloud, the authentication procedure being done by the PC for user’s behalf. Also, facial recognition is a proposed approach to perform log-ins.

Form Factors. Windows 8 will target 3 form factors:

  • Slate – optimized for web and media consumption, casual gaming, reading email, IM, social networking
  • Laptop – productivity apps, writing email, media organization
  • All-in-one - optimized for web and media consumption, casual gaming, heavier communication, media organization.

Quick Startup. The strategy in this area includes:

  • Delivering an appliance-like look&feel
  • Improving booting and shutdown
  • Using caching
  • Providing measurement and optimization tools

Restore. The plan is to let the user restore Windows to factory defaults through a simple push of a button. Windows 8 will preserve the user’s personal data, accounts, etc.

IE9. According to the slides, IE9 will be released as beta in August 2010.

Market. Microsoft counts on targeting about 8.6M professional developers, 39M STEM-D – science, tech, engineering, math, and 104M hobbyist and non-professional developers.

Windows Store. Microsoft seems to plan for an application store, one targeted at Windows not the already existing Windows Marketplace. This is very similar to Apple’s App Store.

Miguel de Icaza wrote a post telling what he would like from Windows 8. His choices certainly reflect the desires of a developer:

The Sandboxed Execution System: would prevent applications from touching the registry, installing any drivers, any hooks, any visualizers or any other deep integration features that applications typically use to integrate with the OS.

The sandboxed execution system would prevent applications from looking at the file system, except for locations that have been predetermined for sharing and

The kernel would have to enforce what files they get access to, what devices and what components they get access to. And should be set to a bare minimum.

Self Contained Applications would be required to install software from the network, or from their appstore. These applications would get absolutely no rights to modify anything outside their directory. Any extension points that they could register with the system ("open with") would have to be registered with the public extension point contract.

Public Contract for Extension Points Any extension points like "open with", or handlers for mime-types would be self contained in a manifest in the application directory.

Instead of having every app poking at the system registry and dumping their junk everywhere, applications would list all of their requirements from the operating system on the manifest and the OS would rebuild its internal data from all of the application manifests available from a user.

Limited APIs: File access APIs, display access APIs would have to be altered to give applications limited access to the host operating system, and to give them as little access to anything that most applications do not need.

What features would you like to have in Windows 8?

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