With the release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft is revealing more details about its next operating system. But many enterprises are just adopting Windows 7, so is there good reason to get excited yet? This Windows 8 FAQ looks at what we know so far.
What Windows 8 features are new?
The latest iteration of Microsoft's venerable operating system will supposedly boot up faster and be more secure than its predecessors. Windows 8 will also support touch-based interfaces, use an app store called AppX, and have Internet Explorer (IE) 10 and Hyper-V built in. Microsoft's next OS will be deployable through Systems Center Configuration Manager 2012 and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012.
What will the user interface be like?
Microsoft claims that the cleaner Metro user interface demonstrates how its next operating system will work smoothly across devices, including tablets. The company also said its Metro interface will make it easier to develop apps for multiple devices. The much-maligned ribbon will still be present but revised, and Windows 8 features include more support of the use of multiple monitors. A touch keyboard is intended for tablet-style use, and some analysts speculate that the gesture-based Microsoft Kinect could make it easier for the OS to incorporate biometric security.
How will it support virtualization?
Microsoft's next OS will support Hyper-V, which is a bare-metal hypervisor, eliminating the need for a virtual machine manager. Hyper-V could also make it possible to support legacy systems, but with some limitations. As with personalization preferences and virtualization, Metro apps will be accessible via any Microsoft login, which could place extra demands on virtual desktop infrastructures. With Windows To Go, users will be able to upload their personal data, settings and apps onto a USB stick and use them with any Windows 7 or Windows 8 machine.
How will Windows 8 work with mobile devices?
Windows on ARM is a specific version of Windows 8 designed to run on tablets, which utilize ARM processors. Questions remain about application compatibility across devices and licensing for bring your own device programs.
What about Internet Explorer?
IE 10 will come preinstalled with Windows 8. Microsoft still doesn't support IE as a separately virtualized application, but developers could look at Hyper-V and MinWin (a stripped-down version of the OS) as a way around that.
And the file system?
Applications based on Windows 7 should work in Windows 8, according to Microsoft. Finding files with Windows Explorer and tracking resource-intensive applications with the Task Manager are supposed to get easier in this next OS as well. Users will also be able to organize Metro applications, both built-in and downloaded through its app store, much as they would on a smartphone or tablet.
Will the OS be secure?
Windows 8 features will include the SmartScreen file filter (originally found in IE 8) and Secure Boot, which loads antimalware protection before other OS components. Although Windows on ARM won't be able to connect to corporate domains, enterprise IT can use BitLocker to encrypt data and AppLocker to set policies governing software access.
Will licensing be a problem?
Despite the reluctance of many organizations to upgrade from previous OSes, Microsoft is pushing ahead with profitable new Enterprise Agreements (EAs). It wouldn't hurt to start thinking now about EAs and Software Assurance costs.
What is History Vault?
A new refresh option will make it possible to restore a PC to a clean state without erasing a user's data and customized settings, similar to the Time Machine function in Mac OS X.
How should my organization prepare for Windows 8?
The hardware requirements for Windows 8 are the same as those for Windows 7, but developers and admins should get ready for Microsoft's new focus on mobile computing, new user interface and potential application incompatibilities. They can start by checking out the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.