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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Windows 8





Windows 8 Start Screen.png
Screenshot of the Start screen of Windows 8
Developer
Microsoft Corporation
Website windows.microsoft.com
Releases
Initial release October 26, 2012; 3 months ago[info] (2012-10-26)
Stable release 6.2 (Build 9200) (August 1, 2012; 6 months ago (2012-08-01)) [info]
License Proprietary commercial software
Kernel type Hybrid
Update method Windows Update
Platform support IA-32, x64, and ARM[1]
Preceded by Windows 7 (2009)




    Windows 8 is a version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablets, and home theater PCs. Development of Windows 8 started before the release of its predecessor, Windows 7, in 2009. Its existence was first announced at CES 2011, and followed by the release of three pre-release versions from September 2011 to May 2012. The operating system was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012, and was released for general availability on October 26, 2012.
Windows 8 introduces significant changes to the operating system's platform, primarily focused towards improving its user experience on mobile devices such as tablets to better compete with other mobile operating systems like Android and Apple's iOS. Windows 8 introduces a new touch-friendly shell and user interface based on Microsoft's "Metro" design language, featuring a new Start screen with a grid of dynamically updating tiles that represent applications. The Start screen replaces the "Start menu" of earlier Windows versions. There is a new app platform with an emphasis on touchscreen input, and the new Windows Store to obtain and/or purchase applications to run on the operating system.
In addition, Windows 8 takes advantage of new or emerging technologies like USB 3.0, 4Kn Advanced Format, near field communications, cloud computing, and the low-power ARM architecture. It includes new security features such as built-in antivirus capabilities, a new installation process optimized for digital distribution, and support for secure boot (a UEFI feature which allows operating systems to be digitally signed to prevent malware from altering the boot process). Synchronization of certain apps and settings between multiple devices is supported.
Windows 8 was released to mixed reception. Although reaction towards its performance improvements, security enhancements, and improved support for touchscreen devices was positive, the new user interface of the operating system has been widely criticized for being confusing and having a steep learning curve (especially when used with a keyboard and mouse instead of a touchscreen). Despite these shortcomings, 60 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold through January 2013. This includes upgrades and sales to OEMs for new PCs.

Development history

Windows 8 development started before Windows 7 had shipped in 2009. In late January 2011, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Microsoft announced that Windows 8 would be adding support for ARM microprocessors in addition to the x86 microprocessors from Intel, AMD and VIA Technologies.On June 1, 2011, Microsoft unveiled Windows 8's new user interface as well as additional features at the Taipei Computex 2011 in Taipei (Taiwan) by Mike Angiulo and at the D9 conference in California (United States) by Julie Larson-Green and Microsoft's Windows President Steven Sinofsky. The "Building Windows 8" blog launched on August 15, 2011, featuring details surrounding Windows 8's features and its development process.

A screenshot of Windows 8 Developer Preview running on a multi-monitor system, showcasing some features
Microsoft unveiled new Windows 8 features and improvements on the first day of the BUILD conference on September 13, 2011. Microsoft released Windows 8 Developer Preview (build 8102) the same day, which included SDKs and developer tools (such as Visual Studio Express and Expression Blend) for developing applications for Windows 8's new interface..According to Microsoft, there were about 535,000 downloads of the developer preview within the first 12 hours of its release.Originally set to expire on March 11, 2012, in February 2012 the Developer Preview's expiry date was changed to January 15, 2013.
Three milestone releases of Windows 8 leaked to the general public. Milestone 1, Build 7850, was leaked on April 12, 2011. It was the first build where the text of a window was written centered instead of aligned to the left. It was also probably the first appearance of the Metro-style font, and its wallpaper had the text shhh... let's not leak our hard work. However, its detailed build number reveals that the build was created on September 22, 2010. The leaked copy edition was Enterprise edition. The OS still reads as "Windows 7". Milestone 2, Build 7955, was leaked on April 25, 2011. The traditional BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) was replaced by a new Black screen, although this was later scrapped. This build introduced a new Ribbon UI in Windows Explorer. Build 7959, with minor changes but the first 64-bit version, was leaked on May 1, 2011. The "Windows 7" logo was temporarily replaced with text displaying "Microsoft Confidential". On June 17, 2011, build 7989 64-bit edition was leaked. It introduced a new boot screen featuring the same fish as the default Windows 7 Beta wallpaper, which was later scrapped, and the circling dots as featured in the final (although the final version comes with smaller circling dots throbber). It also had the text Welcome below them, although this was also scrapped.
On September 13, 2011, build 8102 (Windows 8 Developer Preview) was released to the public at Microsoft's BUILD Conference. The build was fully unlocked for the first time and had the new Start Screen, Metro UI and shipped with sample apps made by summer interns at Microsoft. The Windows Store did not work in this build. The build was aimed at developers to build Metro style apps.

The new File Explorer interface with "Ribbon" in Windows 8
On February 29, 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8 Consumer Preview, the beta version of Windows 8, build 8250. For the first time since Windows 95, the Start button is no longer present on the taskbar, though the Start screen is still triggered by clicking the bottom-left corner of the screen and by clicking Start on the Charm bar.Windows president Steven Sinofsky said more than 100,000 changes had been made since the developer version went public.[20] The day after its release, Windows 8 Consumer Preview had been downloaded over one million times.[21] Like the Developer Preview, the Consumer Preview expired on January 15, 2013.
Many other builds were released until the Japan's Developers Day conference, when Steven Sinofsky announced that Windows 8 Release Preview (build 8400) would be released during the first week of June.[22] On May 28, 2012, Windows 8 Release Preview (Standard Simplified Chinese x64 edition, not China-specific version, build 8400) was leaked online on various Chinese and BitTorrent websites.[23] On May 31, 2012, Windows 8 Release Preview was released to the public by Microsoft.[24]
Major items in the Release Preview included the addition of Sports, Travel, and News apps, along with an integrated version of Flash Player in Internet Explorer.[25] Like the Developer Preview and the Consumer Preview, the release preview is set to expire on January 15, 2013.
On August 1, 2012, Windows 8 (build 9200[26]) was released to manufacturing with the build number 6.2.9200.16384 .[27] Microsoft planned to hold a launch event on October 25, 2012[28] and release Windows 8 for general availability on the next day.[29] However, only a day after its release to manufacturing, a copy of the final version of Windows 8 Enterprise N (produced for European markets) leaked to the web, and several days later there were Pro and Enterprise leaks both IA-32 and x64.[30][31] On August 15, 2012, Windows 8 was made available to download for MSDN and TechNet subscribers.[32] Windows 8 was made available to Software Assurance customers on August 16, 2012.[33] Windows 8 was made available for students with a DreamSpark Premium subscription on August 22, 2012, earlier than advertised.[34]
Relatively few changes were made from the Release Preview to the final version; these included updated versions of its pre-loaded apps, the renaming of Windows Explorer to File Explorer, the replacement of the Aero Glass theme from Windows Vista and 7 with a new flat and solid-colored theme, and the addition of new background options for the Start screen, lock screen, and desktop.[35] Prior to its general availability on October 26, 2012, updates were released for some of Windows 8's bundled apps, and a "General Availability Cumulative Update" (which included fixes to improve performance, compatibility, and battery life) was released on Tuesday, October 9, 2012. Microsoft indicated that due to improvements to its testing infrastructure, general improvements of this nature are to be released more frequently through Windows Update instead of being relegated to OEMs and service packs only.[36][37]
Microsoft began an advertising campaign centered around Windows 8 and its Surface tablet in October 2012, starting with its first television advertisement premiering on October 14, 2012.[4] Microsoft's advertising budget for the operating system is US$1.5–1.8 billion, making Windows 8 the industry's biggest product launch in history.[38]

New and changed features

New features and functionality in Windows 8 include a faster startup through UEFI integration and the new "Hybrid Boot" mode (which hibernates the Windows kernel on shutdown to speed up the subsequent boot),[39] a new lock screen with a clock and notifications,[40] and the ability for enterprise users to create live USB versions of Windows (known as Windows To Go).[41][42] Windows 8 also adds native support for USB 3.0 devices, which allow for faster data transfers and improved power management with compatible devices,[43][44] and hard disk 4Kn Advanced Format support,[45] as well as support for near field communication to facilitate sharing and communication between devices.[46]
Windows Explorer, which has been renamed File Explorer, now includes a ribbon in place of the command bar. File operation dialog boxes have been updated to provide more detailed statistics, the ability to pause file transfers, and improvements in the ability to manage conflicts when copying files.[47] A new "File History" function allows incremental revisions of files to be backed up to and restored from a secondary storage device,[48] while Storage Spaces allows users to combine different sized hard disks into virtual drives and specify mirroring, parity, or no redundancy on a folder-by-folder basis.[49]
Task Manager has also been redesigned, including a new processes tab with the option to display fewer or more details of running applications and background processes, a heat map using different colors indicating the level of resource usage, network and disk counters, grouping by process type (e.g. applications, background processes and Windows processes), friendly names for processes and a new option which allows users to search the web to find information about obscure processes.[50] Additionally, the Blue Screen of Death has been updated with a simpler and modern design with less technical information displayed.[51][52]

Safety and security

Additional security features in Windows 8 include two new authentication methods tailored towards touchscreens (PINs and picture passwords),[53] the addition of antivirus capabilities to Windows Defender (bringing it in parity with Microsoft's Security Essentials software)[54] SmartScreen filtering integrated into the desktop,[55] and support for the "Secure Boot" functionality on UEFI systems to protect against malware infecting the boot process.[56] Parental controls are offered through the integrated Family Safety software, which allows parents to monitor and control their children's activities on a device with activity reports and safety controls.[57][58][59] Windows 8 also provides integrated system recovery through the new "Refresh" and "Reset" functions.[60] Windows 8's first security patches would be released on November 13, 2012; it would contain three critical (most severe as per Microsoft) fixes.[61]

Online services and functionality

Windows 8 provides heavier integration with online services from Microsoft and others. Online services are regionally and nationally clipped or censored. For example, while online TV is available in the United States, such media distribution is blocked in Canada. A user can now log in to Windows with a Microsoft account, formally known as a Windows Live ID, which can be used to access services and synchronize applications and settings between devices. Windows 8 also ships with a client app for Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service, which also allows apps to save files directly to SkyDrive. A SkyDrive client for the desktop and File Explorer is not included in Windows 8, and must be downloaded separately.[62] Bundled multimedia apps are provided under the Xbox brand, including Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and the Xbox SmartGlass companion for use with an Xbox 360 console. Games can integrate into an Xbox Live hub app, which also allows users to view their profile and gamerscore.[63] Other bundled apps provide the ability to link to services such as Flickr and Facebook.[64]
Internet Explorer 10 is included as both a desktop program and a touch-optimized app, and includes increased support for HTML5, CSS3, and hardware acceleration. The Internet Explorer app does not support plugins or ActiveX components, but includes a version of Adobe Flash Player that is optimized for touch and low power usage, but works only on sites included on a whitelist. The desktop version does not contain these limitations.[65]
Windows 8 also incorporates improved support for mobile broadband; the operating system can now detect the insertion of a SIM card and automatically configure connection settings (including APNs and carrier branding), track and reduce bandwidth use on metered networks. Windows 8 also adds an integrated airplane mode setting to globally disable all wireless connectivity as well. Carriers can also offer account management systems through Windows Store apps, which can be automatically installed as a part of the connection process and offer usage statistics on their respective tile.[66]

Windows Store and Apps


A music app for Windows 8, shown snapped in the sidebar to the Windows Desktop
Windows 8 introduces a new style of application, Windows Store apps. According to Microsoft developer Jensen Harris, these apps are to be optimized for touchscreen environments and will be more specialized than current desktop applications. Apps can run either in a full-screen mode, or be docked to the side of a screen.[67] They can provide notifications and a "live tile" on the Start screen for dynamic content. Apps can use "contracts"; a collection of hooks to provide common functionality that can integrate with other apps, such as search and sharing.[67] Apps can also provide integration with other services; for example, the People app can connect to a variety of different social networks and services (such as Facebook, Skype, and People service), while the Photos app can aggregate photos from services such as Facebook and Flickr.[64]
Windows Store apps run within a new set of APIs known as the Windows Runtime, which supports programming languages such as C, C++, VB.NET, C#, along with HTML5 and JavaScript.[67] Depending on the language used, apps written for Windows Runtime can be compatible with both Intel and ARM versions of Windows.[68] To ensure stability and security, apps run within a sandboxed environment, and require permissions to access certain functionality, such as accessing the Internet or a camera.[69]
Retail versions of Windows 8 will be able to install these apps only through the Windows Store—a namesake distribution platform which offers both apps and certified desktop applications.[68][69] A method to sideload apps from outside the Windows Store is available to devices running Windows 8 Enterprise and joined to a domain; Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT devices that are not part of a domain can also sideload apps, but only after special product keys are obtained through volume licensing.[70]
Windows Store apps were originally known as "Metro-style apps" during the development of Windows 8, referring to the Metro design language. The term was reportedly phased out in August 2012; a Microsoft spokesperson denied rumors that the change was related to a potential trademark issue, and stated that "Metro" was only a codename that would be phased out prior to Windows 8's release.[71] Following these reports, the terms "Modern UI-style apps",[72] "Windows 8-style apps"[73] and "Windows Store apps" began to be used by various Microsoft documents and material to refer to the new apps. In an interview on September 12, 2012, Soma Somasegar (vice president of Microsoft's development software division) confirmed that "Windows Store apps" would be the official term for the apps.[74]

Web browsers

Exceptions are given to web browsers classified as being "New experience enabled" (formerly "Metro-style enabled"), which provide a special version that runs within the "Metro" shell as an app. Web browser apps are distributed alongside desktop web browsers instead of through the Windows Store, and also have access to functionality unavailable to other apps, such as being able to permanently run in the background, use multiple background processes, and use Windows API code instead of WinRT (allowing for code to be re-used with the desktop version, while still taking advantage of WinRT features such as integration with charms). However, only the user's default web browser can be used in this setting.
The developers of both Chrome and Firefox committed to developing versions of their browsers to run in this environment; while Chrome's "Windows 8 mode" uses the existing desktop interface, Firefox's version (which is currently available in development builds) uses a touch-optimized interface inspired by the mobile version of Firefox.[75][76][77][78]

Interface and desktop

Windows 8 introduces significant changes to the operating system's user interface, many of which are aimed at improving its experience on tablet computers and other touchscreen devices. The new user interface is based on Microsoft's Metro design language, and features a new tile-based Start screen similar to that of Windows Phone, which has replaced the previous Start menu entirely. The Start screen displays a customizable array of tiles linking to various apps and desktop programs, some of which can display constantly updated information and content through "live tiles".[67] As a form of multi-tasking, apps can be snapped to the side of a screen.[67]
A vertical toolbar known as the charms bar (accessed by swiping from the right edge of a touchscreen, or pointing the cursor at hotspots in the right corners of a screen) provides access to system and app-related functions, such as search, sharing, device management, settings, and a Start button. The traditional desktop environment for running desktop applications is accessed via a tile on the new Start screen. The Start button on the taskbar has been removed in favor of the Start button on the charms bar and a hotspot in the lower-left corner of the screen.[79][80] Swiping from the left edge of a touchscreen or clicking in the top-left corner of the screen allows one to switch between apps and the Desktop. Pointing the cursor in the top-left corner of the screen and moving down reveals a thumbnail list of active apps.[80] Aside from the removal of the Start button, the desktop on Windows 8 is similar to that of Windows 7, except that the Aero Glass theme has been replaced by a flatter, solid-colored design inspired by the Metro interface.[81]

BSOD in Windows 8

Secure boot

Windows 8 supports a feature of the UEFI specification known as "Secure boot", which uses a public-key infrastructure to verify the integrity of the operating system and prevent unauthorized programs such as bootkits from infecting the device.[82]
Microsoft faced criticism (particularly from free software supporters) for mandating that devices receiving its optional certification for Windows 8 have secure boot enabled by default using a key provided by Microsoft. Concerns were raised that secure boot could prevent or hinder the use of alternate operating systems such as Linux. In response to the criticism, Microsoft developer Tony Mangefeste stated that "At the end of the day, the customer is in control of their PC. Microsoft’s philosophy is to provide customers with the best experience first, and allow them to make decisions themselves."[83][84]
Microsoft's certification requirements eventually revealed that UEFI firmware on x86 systems must allow users to re-configure or turn off secure boot, but that this must not be possible on ARM-based systems (Windows RT). Microsoft faced further criticism for its decision to restrict Windows RT devices by using this functionality.[56][85][86] Tom Warren, in an article on The Verge, said that other smartphones and tablets are typically sold in a locked-down state.[86] No mandate is made regarding the installation of third-party certificates that would enable running alternative software.[87][88][89]

Removed features

Aside from the removal of the Start menu, several notable features have been removed in Windows 8. Support for playing DVDs has been removed from Windows Media Player due to the cost of licensing the necessary decoders (especially for devices which do not include optical disc drives at all) and the prevalence of streaming services such as Netflix. For the same reasons, Windows Media Center will no longer be included by default on Windows 8, but the software (which also includes support for DVD playback) can be purchased in the "Pro Pack" (for the base version of Windows 8, which also upgrades the system to Windows 8 Pro) or "Media Center Pack" (for Windows 8 Pro) add-ons. Windows 8 will still support third-party DVD playback software.[90]
Backup and Restore, the former backup app of Windows, is deprecated. It still ships with Windows 8 and continues to work on preset schedules, but is pushed to the background and can only be accessed through a Control Panel applet called "Windows 7 File Recovery".[91]:76 Shadow Copy, a component of Windows Explorer that once saved previous versions of changed files, no longer protects local files and folders. It can only access previous versions of shared files stored on a Windows Server computer.[91]:74 The subsystem on which these components worked, however, is still available for other software to use.[91]:74
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