2012 is finally here. Although Microsoft has not shared any details regarding an official launch date for Windows 8, all signs point to sometime this year. Windows 8 is still Windows at its core, but it is also a major departure from previous versions of the flagship operating system.
So, what can we expect with Windows 8 on the horizon? Is there any reason to get excited about what Windows 8 has to offer? Here is a look at five features and capabilities of Windows 8 that may change the way you do computing in 2012.
The controversial ribbon UI is spreading from Microsoft Office to take over the Windows operating system as well. While some users despise the ribbon UI and lament the loss of old-fashioned drop-down menus, many users embrace the more flexible, customizable, and useful interface of the ribbon. I realize the traditional drop-down lists are “comfortable” because they’re more familiar, but once you adapt to the ribbon UI it really does help you work more effectively and efficiently. I like it in Microsoft Office, and I am looking forward to it in Windows 8.
Internet Explorer 10
Microsoft didn’t rest. As soon as Internet Explorer 9 launched, details began to emerge about the next generation browser from Microsoft. With IE10, Microsoft is moving its line in the sand. IE9 is only available for Windows Vista, and Windows 7 — shunning Windows XP and earlier versions of the operating system. IE10 cuts out Windows Vista as well, requiring Windows 7 or later. Microsoft stands by the decision, though, insisting that only current hardware and software are capable of delivering the Web experience it is striving for with IE10.
Microsoft is borrowing a page from rivals like Apple and Ubuntu by creating an online software market. The Windows Store will be an outlet for purchasing apps developed for the Windows 8 Metro-style interface. In fact, the Windows Store will be the only place that users will be able to buy Metro-style apps — a move Microsoft claims will improve the quality of the apps, and reduce the potential for bugs and malware.
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OS on a thumb drive
One of my favorite features of Windows 8 so far is the ability to store an entire, bootable Windows 8 operating system on a USB thumb drive. You can literally take your entire Windows 8 environment with you in your pocket, and boot it up on whatever PC hardware happens to be available. It could make travel much easier, because you could just take a tablet for use on the go, and Windows 8 on a thumb drive to use for when you get to your destination.
Last, but not least, we have tablets. With Windows 8, the iconic Microsoft desktop operating system will also work on ARM-based hardware, and will be able to run on tablets as well as desktops and laptops. The Metro UI, and the look and feel of Windows 8 in general seem to have been designed from the ground up to deliver both form and function for touchscreen devices.
The tablet market is currently dominated by the Apple iPad 2. The Amazon Kindle Fire has been a huge success as well, but it is more consumer-oriented, and not as useful as the iPad as a mobile device for business. If Windows 8 can deliver a solid user experience at a decent price, the tablets could be a huge success.
While a public beta of Windows 8 might be available in the next couple months, I don’t expect Windows 8 to officially hit the street until Q4 — maybe Q3 if we’re lucky. But, when it does get here, early builds suggest it has what it takes to be a success.