Disclaimer: These rumors were never confirmed from official Microsoft sources. At the time of this writing, there is no official announcement from Microsoft regarding the new features of Windows 8.
In the last post, I speculated about the features related to the cloud and to new form factors Windows 8 could have. While these will probably be the most discussed Windows 8 functions, the new features I will discuss today are also noteworthy because they will have a significant impact on user experience.
You might have heard of Kinect for Xbox 360. It enables players to interact with games using gestures without touching any kind of hardware. I think, this new feature is not just for gamers. Actually, I believe, it is possible that we’re seeing the beginning of a new kind of user interface. Combine this with 3D displays, and you are in Minority Report. Yeah, right, Apple will probably pick this technology up and use their powerful marketing machinery to create the unbelievably successful “iAct.” But that is okay. (Do you remember the first presentations of Microsoft Surface and that the iPhone appeared shortly afterwards?)
Facial recognition through webcams
This would certainly be a cool Windows 8 feature. You can now buy facial recognition software from third parties, but if this functionality will be built into Windows, it could become the common way to log on to a Windows machine. No more need for a password, just a friendly smile at your PC and you are in. Let’s just hope you won’t be locked out on your grumpy days.
Instant-On would certainly be a very important feature for Windows 8 tablets. People want to use them like a phone without booting them up first. It remains to be seen if Windows really can be changed in a way to support instant-on. I hope Microsoft won’t just use “instant-on” as a new marketing term for “hibernate.”
This is another Windows 8 feature that will help improve the user experience. There is nothing worse than your Windows machine hanging at boot-up when you urgently want to get some work done. This new “restore button” will allow you to restore Windows 8 to its original state without the need to back up your data first. It also seems that installed applications will still be available after the restore. I wonder if this applies to applications that have been installed by users. This would be really cool. But if this functionality is not included, then it is just a feature that many PC vendors have already offered for many years.
Improved energy efficiency
Microsoft works on this one in every Windows version. So this will be more evolution than revolution. I think, the main improvements are coming from hardware manufacturers in this area and Windows 8 will just be supporting this new functionality.
New hardware support
Of course, Windows 8 will support any thinkable new hardware. And guess what? You will even have USB support on all Windows 8 tablets, and not just USB 2.0, we are talking USB 3.0, which is fast enough to replace eSATA. Proximity sensors will be another hot topic. I wonder how this will be related to the new Instant-On feature. Support of 3D technology appears to be natural and will fit together perfectly with Kinect.
Windows 8 release date
The release date is probably the Windows 8 feature that most people would like to know. The first public beta of Windows 8 is expected by the end of 2011; the release date of Windows 8 RTM would then be sometime in 2012.
I didn’t cover all important new Windows 8 features in this series. As mentioned in my first post, we are only at the beginning of the speculation phase. If you spotted a hint about another important new Windows 8 feature in the leaked presentations that I missed, please let me know.