Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Some Exciting Features of Windows 8

Microsoft’s flagship operating system, Windows, hasn’t always had a smooth ride. Whilst it’s true that more than 75% of the world’s computers (according to statistics from 2011) run some version of Windows or other, it’s still frequently subject to criticism from a range of sources. Perhaps the most widely panned version of the OS was Windows Vista, which to this day stands as one of the most poorly optimized operating systems. Microsoft made up for this in a big way with Windows 7, which marked a return to the quality of Windows XP in terms of speed and ease of use. But we’re now just months away from the next step forward: Windows 8. So should we all be afraid of another Vista debacle? Hopefully not. Here are just a few reasons why it’s actually OK to be excited for Windows 8.

Metro interface with ‘Live Tiles'
Much to the surprise of the technology community, Microsoft has become a real competitor in the Smartphone market with the Windows Phone. Its user interface is always complimented for being accessible and simple, but powerful. With Windows 8, Microsoft seem to be wanting to translate this success onto the desktop and laptop environments. It’s an optional thing, though, so don’t worry – you won’t have to sacrifice your desktop. The Metro interface, as it’s known, is a block of tiles, each representing an app. These are called Live Tiles, and can be used to deliver notifications about the app. Metro also takes full advantage of touch screens, although it’s unclear how that will work on a desktop PC. Still, the interface is something brand new for the OS, and is something to get excited about.

Boot from a USB drive with Windows to Go
If you’ve ever worked in IT, you’ll know that there are times when using a machine’s OS can either be impossible because of a fault, or because of a permissions issue. With Windows 8, Microsoft are introducing ‘Windows to Go’ – a fully featured corporate Windows environment accessible from a USB stick. All you’ll have to do is plug in the stick and you’ll gain access to the file system of the host machine. This can be very useful in situations whereby security has been compromised. No matter how good your business insurance is, there is often nothing that an insurance claim can do to save files when a workstation is compromised via networking vulnerabilities. With 'Windows to Go', businesses with or without insurance can feel confident that their network security is as tight as possible.

The Ribbon toolbar has been promoted
If you’ve ever used the more recent editions of Microsoft Office, you’ve very likely tried out the ‘ribbon’. It’s the strip along the top of the software that contains various buttons and tools, organized by category. With Windows 8, Microsoft are bringing the Ribbon to Windows Explorer, so dealing with files will be as simple as editing documents. This is great for consistency across Windows products, and should help everyone use the OS and software more seamlessly. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how this is implemented in Windows 8.

Native USB 3.0 support
At present, none of the Windows operating systems support the latest version of USB – 3.0. Windows XP, Vista, and 7 all use USB 2.0. It works fine, but it’s nowhere near as fast as the new version. With USB 3.0 native support, Windows 8 will make the new version available to everyone, and we can all benefit from super-quick file transfers and quicker syncing for our mobile devices. USB 3.0 support is certainly on the list of things you can genuinely be excited for.

Hybrid Boot will make start-up a snap
We’ve all been in a situation whereby we’ve had to get our PC or laptop started quickly, but then had to sit through at least a minute of loading – sometimes even longer. This is something that Microsoft are now going to address with Windows 8. Known as ‘Hybrid Boot’, the new feature will use advanced hibernation techniques to make shut down and start-up much faster, whilst keeping power consumption to a minimum. It’d be great to be able to ‘flick on’ your Windows 8 PC in the same way you do a Smartphone – and this could be the first step.
At the moment, Windows 8 is planned for a late 2012 release. If you can’t wait that long, you can already download the consumer preview from various places on the web and see the new features in action for yourself. There are already many good things being reported about the consumer preview, so feel free to grab a copy and see how it could help your business too.

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