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8 Things About Windows 8

What does Microsoft have up its sleeve for Windows 8? Details are scant, but for the first time since Microsoft released Windows 7 (July 2009) proof Microsoft is busy prepping its next OS is surfacing on the Web. As tablets and “the cloud” continue to de-emphasize the traditional desktop OS, Microsoft really can’t afford to rest on its Windows 7 laurels.

The era of cellphones, tablets, the cloud, and even gaming appear to be figuring strongly into Microsoft’s thinking for Windows 8. From what I can piece together Microsoft appears to be mixing the best of many of its products and services into one streamlined computing experience called Windows 8.

Here are eight things about Windows 8 I culled from the Web that hint to what might see in the final release.

The Guts: 128-Bits of Power

Good for us, bad for Microsoft: Robert Morgan, a Microsoft employee, shared a small but interesting detail about Windows 8′s architecture: it’ll be 128 bits. Morgan wrote: “128-bit architecture compatibility with the Windows 8 kernel and Windows 9 project plan.” Windows 7 was available as 32 bits or 64 bits, the latter of which requires more RAM and are theoretically more powerful than 32-bit equivalents. A 128-bit version of Windows 8 would represent the next leap in performance.

The Cloud: Web Sharing

Also discovered was another new button: Web Sharing. This sounds like it’ll use Windows Live SkyDrive, a cloud storage and sharing feature that hands out 25GB for free, integrates with Office, and works just like Dropbox.

The Cloud: Sync

A closer look at the Explorer Ribbon shows two placeholder buttons: Sync and Web Sharing. Microsoft has been angling to push a lot of its services into the cloud, and these telltale buttons, pointed out by I Started Something, show that functionality may be digging deeper into the core OS. The guess is that the Sync button will work like Windows Live Mesh, which synchs program settings across PCs and enables offline connectivity.

Xbox Integration: A New Windows Gaming Experience

Last May, ZDNet discovered an internal video for Microsoft’s “Windows Gaming eXperience” team that showed how the company intends on melding Xbox 360 and Xbox Live to the Internet as a whole, especially social gaming. Using Kinect technology to interact with online buddies, play PC games, and much more, could be the future of platform integration.

Xbox Integration: Kinect

Microsoft opened its arms to Kinect hackers when its Xbox peripheral demonstrated huge potential with some DIY tweaks. A talented hacker even made Google’s April Fool’s joke Gmail Motion come true and used his body to write emails. The possibilities of Kinect + Windows 8 are limitless; but what we do know via leaked Windows 8 blueprints is that Microsoft plans on using proximity detection and facial recognition to startup and unlock PCs.

The Guts: The Tablet Hardware

Ditching the x86 platform, designed by companies like Intel and AMD, Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 8 will operate on the ARM microchip architecture–the same tech that powers most of the world’s smartphones and tablets. Microsoft has been widely criticized for not entering the tablet market sooner, but as Business Insider points out, the company has to act this way: Steve Ballmer would be foolish–and possibly legally liable to shareholders–if he approved any strategy that knowingly cannibalized the 60 percent to 80 percent profit margins in earns on Office and Windows, respectively.

But now Microsoft has gotten serious about a tablet, and wants to power it with Windows 8, a gutsy OS with scant–but deliciously enticing–details.

The UI: The (Dreaded) Office Ribbon Returns

Love it or loathe it, the Ribbon interface is apparently making its way into Windows 8′s Explorer windows. The context-aware Ribbon, which made a huge mess of Microsoft’s Office suite, will replace the drop-down menus and toolbar in Windows 8′s Explorer windows, making many more of Window’s hidden features visibly discoverable. The Ribbon’s big buttons beg to be touched–a perfect addition to a touchscreen Windows 8 tablet.

The UI: Lock Screen Looks like Windows 7

One small–but telling–change to Windows 8′s U I cribs a page from Windows Phone 7′s playbook. The welcome/lock screen has the same interface as Microsoft’s smartphone OS. Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott over at Within Windows uncovered the new display, which includes the time, day of week, the date (month and day), icons for power management (for portable machines only) and ease of access.

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