This post is a list of links to rumors of what is new in Windows 8. The list will be updated regularly.
It has been a while since my last update of the Windows 8 rumor link list. You hardly missed that Microsoft meanwhile went public about the most important change in Windows since Windows 95. The long rumored tile-based user interface will become real. Even though it is not really a rumor any more, I added it to the list together with videos that demo the new Windows 8 user interface. I have also added a few articles that commented on this big change.
More “non-official” news about Windows 8 is still surfacing. This is why I will continue to update this list until Windows 8 finally RTMs. Whenever Microsoft confirms a feature, I will put the corresponding link in front of the others.
Please note that even though some of the sources of the other features listed here obviously have had access to those early Windows 8 builds, there is absolutely no guarantee that any of the features will make it into the final version of Windows 8. The final product has a long way to go before it’s ready, and Microsoft can drop any of these features at any time.
If you already read a former version of this article, you can read only the paragraphs that I marked as “new.”
Touch-based user interface (new)
A year ago, I pleaded for Microsoft to give up the “evolutionary approach” and introduce a radical new user interface. I admit, I didn’t really believe that Microsoft would have the guts for such a radical step. From what I have seen in the demos, it definitely is a step in the right direction. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that the Start button and the menus are finally replaced with this new tile-based Start screen. To allow users to switch back to the old user interface is good, and will silence those who are afraid of change. In a way, this step is comparable to the move from DOS to Windows. Both user interfaces co-existed for quite a while until Microsoft finally got rid of DOS in Windows NT.
User account roaming (new)
Rumors about a feature that would allow users to store Windows settings in the cloud have been circulating for some time. A new screenshot confirms that this will indeed be typical user profile settings such as desktop settings, application settings, and credentials.
Login via Windows Live (new)
I suppose this feature is related to the new user account roaming feature. In a way, Windows Live could function like a domain controller in a corporate network. You don’t log on with a local account but with a Windows Live account, and your local user profile will be synchronized with the version in the cloud.
Customizable lockscreen (new)
Not really a revolutionary feature, but I think it will improve the user experience for some people if they can choose their lockscreen.
Drag and drop to address bar in Windows Explorer (new)
I always wondered why I can’t just drag files to a folder in the Windows Explorer address bar. Now I know why. Microsoft simply forgot to add this feature.
Windows Store (new)
New evidence has surfaced for another rumored feature. I think an app store for Windows apps is quite likely. The interesting question now is if this Windows Store will only be for the new Windows 8 apps or for all kinds of Windows applications.
Aero Auto-Colorization (new)
This feature will allow Aero to change the colors of your Windows themes based on the colors of your desktop wallpaper.
Restore to factory settings (new)
Many laptop vendors already offer such a feature for restoring the Windows configuration to the factory settings. I hope this new Windows 8 feature will only restore the system configuration and not the user data.
Improved Server Manager (new)
So far, the discussions about the new Windows 8 features are only about the client version. Screenshots of a new Server Manager are the first evidence that Microsoft is also working on a new server version.
Considering that almost every PC is equipped with a webcam nowadays, it is unsurprising that Windows will sport a webcam app.
Facial recognition is really nothing new, but the fact that it might be integrated into Windows 8 shows that this technology is mature enough for the average user. Perhaps we can mark the Windows 8 release as the date where computers learned to “see?”
It appears that common PCs will be equipped with even more “sense organs” that would allow them to detect the presence of humans, acceleration, ambient light, current location, orientation, proximity, etc. This would enable us to communicate with machines in new ways . Of course, some of the features are already common in tablets.
New gestures and touch effects
I think, there is no more doubt that one major focus of Windows 8 is its new tablet capabilities. I am sure, Microsoft’s software engineers are working hard to overcome Windows 7′s biggest weakness.
Android-like pattern logon screen
I really like the Android logon screen. Drawing a pattern to authenticate at a computer would not only be useful for tablets but also for PCs with keyboards. These patterns are easy to memorize but difficult to crack with brute force attacks.
Windows Explorer Ribbon
Windows Explorer and other Windows 8 apps could get a ribbon like in Office 2007 and 2010. I am not sure if this makes sense on devices with small screens, such as tablets and netbooks.
Mobile Broadband Experience Account
Windows 8 Italia is speculating about this cloud feature. They say it could allow you to log in “via cloud” and that third-party service providers are supported. I wonder if “mobile broadband” means that you can use the account of your mobile provider to authenticate at other cloud services.
File Server Resource Manager
Synchronizing local files and folders with a cloud service is a likely feature, considering that Microsoft’s Windows Life Mesh already offers this functionality. It makes sense to directly integrate comparable functionality into Windows 8.
This sounds like application streaming to me, which was one of the features in my Windows 8 wish list. This would be something much cooler than a simple App Store. The point about application streaming is that only the part of the application that you are currently using is downloaded. This would allow you to use huge software packages across different computers without having to wait until the application is fully downloaded or installed.
Instant-On – Hybrid Boot
In February, Long Zheng blogged about a Microsoft patent that would allow Windows to boot up much faster, using virtualization technology. It is uncertain if this feature really deserves the name “instant-on.” Windows Beta talks about 20 seconds, which is not really instantly and not significantly shorter than the 30 seconds my laptop currently needs to start.
Windows Disc Image Burner
This new feature, which is behind CreateBootableUFD.exe found in early Windows 8 builds, seems to indicate that it will be possible to create a bootable flash drive. My guess is that the OS on the flash drive will be Windows RE, which would allow you to repair a non-bootable Windows 8 installation. However, the Windows Disc Image Burner could also be related to the Portable Workspace Creator (see below).
Portable Workspace Creator
The original text from the screenshot is “Portable Workspace is a Windows feature that allows you to run Windows from a USB storage device.” The fact that Windows 8 Enterprise Edition will be required for this feature indicates that it will be most useful for business users. The idea behind it seems to be that you have your OS, with all your applications and data, on a USB stick. You could boot up your complete office PC environment on your laptop, or perhaps even your tablet. This appears to be an anti-cloud feature. Why store all your data and working environment in the insecure cloud if you can have it all on an encrypted flash drive?
Dpmanage – Manages Data Protection
The screenshot doesn’t reveal much—just that this feature is related to backup. However, I think the name says a lot, considering that Microsoft has a continuous data protection (CDP) tool that goes by the name Data Protection Manager. This feature might be related to the time machine feature mentioned above. Until further evidence is available, I will keep both features separate.
The most interesting revelation in the leaked installation screenshots is that important updates can be downloaded before the installation.
The new activation protection is supposed to prevent so-called OEM BIOS hacks where hackers obtain an OEM master key. Of course, it won’t take long before hackers will also crack this new Windows 8 activation protection.
The Windows 8 welcome screen could look a little like the welcome screens of smartphones—that is, with time and date. It appears that CTRL+ALT+DELETE may survive in the new Windows version. I think, it would be a good idea to finally get rid of this awkward key combination because it might be somewhat difficult to perform on tablets.
Many sites speculate whether Microsoft will finally offer a PDF reader. However, when I look at the screenshots, the most interesting part seems to be that Microsoft is going to offer an eBook reader.
AppX package format
I am not sure why Paul Thurrott mentioned AppX, the new packaged application model, in passing in his post about the Modern Reader. A new package format would certainly be a bit more revolutionary than a PDF reader.
Desktop Window manager (DWM) with software acceleration
Whereas some sites speculate that Aero will disappear because of the new Immersive interface, others believe that software acceleration will make Aero available on devices that lack the required hardware capabilities.
History Vault (Time Machine rival)
One of the first things an Apple fan who wants you convinced that OS X is the far more advanced operating system will tell you is that Time Machine allows them to retrieve previous file versions. I always liked the Shadow Copy feature in Windows, but a better backup tool for Windows could do no harm.
An App Store for Windows apps will certainly come sooner or later. Let’s just hope that it will already be live when Windows 8 is released.
SmartScreen file checking
The SmartScreen filter in Internet Explorer 8 and 9 protect internet users from phishing sites and malware. It appears Windows Explorer will get similar feature. I wonder how this feature relates to Microsoft Security Essentials. Is this the first step to shipping Windows with antivirus software?
This feature will allow you to mount ISO images in Windows Explorer.
Windows 8 release date
Most sites reported that the Windows 8 release date could be in late 2012. A beta could be available as early as January 2012. Some speculation even exists that a Windows 8 tablet could ship in Q1. The rising popularity of tablets, combined with the fact that Windows 7 is not really made for touch, is certainly a good reason for Microsoft to release a new Windows version as soon as possible. However, I think that even Steven Ballmer can’t really predict Windows 8′s actual release date.
Do you know of another good article about rumor of what is new in Windows 8? Please let me know.