Top Eight Features of Windows 8 Client
Windows 8 is still Longhorn (albeit "Longhorn point two"), and when you find your way to Windows Explorer, the Registry Editor, the various control panels, and administrative tools, you will be in fairly familiar territory. However, Microsoft has made radical changes to the user interface in an apparent bet that most of its customers will be jettisoning traditional laptops and desktops in favor of tablets. That is probably a valid prediction for home users, but for businesses who plan to stick with keyboards and mice for a few more years, Windows 8 is going to take a lot more user training than Windows 7 did. Please note that this white paper is based on beta software; we'll update it when Windows 8 goes "gold." For now, however, here are the eight topics that jumped out at me when I got acquainted with Windows 8.
Microsoft is certainly getting their money's worth out of the Windows Longhorn code base. The latest installment, Windows 8, is formally version 6.2, with Vista being 6.0 and Windows 7 being 6.1. That is mostly good news because the underlying core of this "new" operating system is a polishing of the code from its predecessors, Microsoft advises that legacy devices and applications should migrate fairly easily to Windows 8 and, in fact, a lot of them will simply work as-is, without an update.
If Windows 8 has the same engine as Windows 7 and Vista, it begs the question: What is really new here? Most obviously, the tablet-friendly Start screen and a new breed of tablet-friendly applications, but there are plenty of other new features as well. I've chosen eight to discuss here (in honor of Windows 8), for those of you who are just now taking your first look at this operating system.
Please note that this white paper is based on beta software; we'll update it when Windows 8 goes "gold." For now, however, here are the eight topics that jumped out at me when I got acquainted with Windows 8:
Big navigation changes
New Group Policies
Internet Explorer 10 is conspicuous by its absence, but it has enough new features that it probably warrants its own "top 10" discussion. Suffice it to say here that it supports newer Web standards such as HTML5 and CSS3, and furthers the Windows 8 philosophy of minimizing navigational tools and providing an "immersive" experience. Windows 8 also includes new "Metro"-style versions of the famous applets that have taken many forms over the years, but at this writing they are in a comparatively less developed state than the rest of the operating system.
By the way, I suggest that you read Microsoft's What's New in Windows 8 documents with a degree of caution. Some of the features listed as new - AppLocker, DirectAccess, BranchCache, and so on - are actually alive and well and living in Windows 7. (In fairness, they could be considered new if you're coming from Windows XP.)
1. Start Screen
The most obvious new feature of Windows 8 is the Start screen (see Figure 1), of which Microsoft is so enamored that the company removed the Start menu from the desktop. You can get to the Windows desktop from the Start screen, and back again via the Windows key (or by sliding the cursor to the place where the Start button used to be - someone at Microsoft has a sense of humor!).
The Start screen has a look and feel very different from the old Start menu. It uses tiles rather than text entries and icons. The tiles are customizable in various ways and can indicate "live" content if desired (something more useful for some apps than others). If you configure the Start screen to show some traditional Windows apps, they'll show up with homogeneously square and non-"live" tiles, as you can see in the right part of the apps display in Figure 1.
Because tiles take up so much more screen real estate than Start menu entries, users with limited screen real estate may well find themselves dealing with scroll bars to get around the Start screen. The size and resolution of the Start screen appears to be independent from the size and resolution of the Windows desktop. Additionally, the Start screen and taskbar are independent, so when you "pin" an application, you have the choice of pinning it to the taskbar, the Start screen, or both.
My review of Microsoft's Group Policy settings for Windows 8 suggests that you won't be able to resurrect the Start menu via Group Policy. This is a big deal, given that the Start menu has been around for nearly two decades. It can feel jarring to be bounced around between the two interfaces (Start screen and Desktop), and the Web is abuzz with commentary from IT administrators who are less than thrilled that Windows 8 forces users into this ping-pong screen-switching. One wonders why Microsoft doesn't permit the activation of the old Start menu via Group Policy, and who knows, perhaps eventually it will. The code is already extant. If not, I predict a burgeoning market of third-party Start menu replacement utilities. In fact, there are already at least three companies with such tools.