Windows 8 is the current release of the Windows operating system, produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablets,
home theater PCs. Development of Windows 8 started before the release of its predecessor 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 rival other mobile operating systems (such as Android and iOS), taking advantage of new and emerging technologies (such as USB 3.0, UEFI firmware, near field communications, cloud computing, and the low-power ARM architecture), new security features (such as malware filtering, built-in antivirus software, and support for secure boot, a controversial UEFI feature which requires operating systems to be digitally signed to prevent malware from infecting the boot process), along with other changes and performance improvements.
Windows 8 also introduces a new shell and user interface based on Microsoft's "Metro" design language, featuring a new Start screen with a grid of dynamically updating tiles to represent applications, a new app platform with an emphasis on touchscreen input, the new Windows Store to obtain and purchase applications for the system, and the ability to synchronize programs and settings between multiple devices.
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), a new lock screen with a clock and notifications, and the ability for enterprise users to create live USB versions of Windows (known as Windows To Go). Windows 8 also adds native support for USB 3.0 devices, which allow for faster data transfers and improved power management with compatible devices along with support for near field communication to facilitate sharing and communication between devices
Windows Explorer, which has been also renamed File Explorer, now includes a ribbon in place of the command bar. File operation dialogs 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. A new "File History" function allows incremental revisions of files to be backed up to and restored from a secondary storage device, 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.
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 to search the web to find information about obscure processes. Additionally, the Blue Screen of Death has been updated with a simpler and modern design with less technical information displayed.
Safety and security:-
Additional security features in Windows 8 include two new authentication methods tailored towards touchscreens (PIN numbers and picture passwords),, the addition of antivirus capabilities to Windows Defender (bringing it in parity with Microsoft's Security Essentials software) SmartScreen filtering integrated into the desktop, and support for the "Secure Boot" functionality on UEFI systems to protect against malware infecting the boot process.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. Windows 8 also provides integrated system recovery through the new "Refresh" and "Reset" functions.
Online services and functionality:-
Windows 8 provides heavier integration with online services from Microsoft and others. 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. 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. Other bundled apps provide the ability to link to services such as Flickr and Facebook.
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.
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.
Windows Store and Apps:-
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 have smaller scope in relation to desktop applications. Apps can run either in a full-screen mode, or be docked directly to the side of a screen. 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 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), while the Photos app can aggregate photos from services such as Facebook and Flickr
Retail versions of Windows 8 will only be able to install these apps through the Windows Store—a namesake distribution platform which offers both apps and certified desktop applications. Only the Enterprise version will allow system administrators to deploy apps from outside the Windows Store.
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.Following these reports, the terms "Modern UI-style apps", "Windows 8-style apps"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) officially confirmed that "Windows Store apps" would be the official term for the apps.
Interface and desktop:-
Windows 8 introduces significant changes to the operating system's user interface, many of which are centered towards 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 As a form of multi-tasking, apps can be snapped to the side of a screen.
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) provide 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. 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. 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.
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.
Despite the security benefits of the feature, 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 installation of alternate operating systems such as Linux, or that future computers could outright restrict the use of any operating system but Windows using secure boot. 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."
Microsoft's certification requirements eventually revealed that 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, despite it being consistent with other consumer electronics with similar protection measures. No mandate is made regarding the installation of third-party certificates that would enable running alternative software.
Aside from the removal of the Start menu, several notable features have been removed from 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 as well, but the software (which also includes support for DVD playback) can be added back through the paid "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.
File History, the new backup feature of Windows 8 described above, replaces Backup and Restore, the former backup app, and Previous Versions, a component of Windows Explorer that saves previous versions of changed files. Backup and Restore is deprecated but will continue to work on preset schedule on computers that upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Previous Versions no longer protects local files, although it is still available to access previous versions of shared files stored on a Windows Server computer. Shadow Copy, the subsystem component based on which these worked, however, is still available for other software to use
Windows 8 also removed the ability to customize the font color as well as the color of maximize/minimize buttons in the title bar which renders it almost impossible to read the text and see the buttons should a user choose to opt a dark color for the Windows borders and taskbar.
Editions and pricing:-
Windows 8 is available in four editions; the two main editions available for retail sale are simply Windows 8 (which is intended for mainstream consumers) and Windows 8 Pro (which contains additional features aimed towards power users and professional environments). Windows 8 Enterprise contains additional features aimed towards business environments, and is only available through volume licensing. Windows Media Center will no longer be included by default in any edition of Windows 8, but will still be available for purchase as an add-on for Windows 8 Pro, or as part of a "Pro Pack" upgrade for Windows 8 which also includes the Pro upgrade Windows RT will only be made available as pre-loaded software on new ARM-based devices built specifically for the OS
Users will be able to purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 online (using a download that can be optionally burned to a DVD), or through boxed copies at retail on DVD. Microsoft will offer upgrades from previous versions of Windows to Windows 8 Pro at a discounted price of $39.99 USD ($69.99 at retail) from its launch until January 31, 2013. Windows 8's initial pricing is notably lower than the regular retail prices for past versions of Windows.
Microsoft also began to offer an upgrade program for those purchasing new PCs pre-loaded with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate between June 2, 2012, and January 31, 2013—in which users will be able to digitally purchase a Windows 8 Pro upgrade for $14.99 USD. The Windows Media Center add-on will be offered for free through this offer. Several PC manufacturers have offered rebates and refunds on Windows 8 upgrades obtained through the program on select models, such as Hewlett-Packard (in the U.S. and Canada on select models), and Acer (in Europe on selected Ultrabook models).
On February 18, 2012, Microsoft confirmed that in Windows 8 the Windows logo will be significantly updated to reflect the new Metro design language. The logo was designed by Pentagram partner Paula Scher. The formerly flag-shaped logo has been transformed into four window panes, perspective was added, and the entire logo will be rendered in a single solid color, which will depend on the user's personalization changes.
Reviews of the various editions of Windows 8 have been mixed. The Verge felt that Windows 8's emphasis on touch computing was a significant aspect of the platform and that Windows 8 devices (especially those that combine the traits of both laptops and tablets) would "[make the] iPad feel immediately out of date" due to the capabilities of the operating system's hybrid model and increased focus on cloud services. Some of the included apps in Windows 8 were considered to be basic and lacking in certain functionality, but the Xbox apps were praised for their promotion of a multi-platform entertainment experience. Other improvements and features (such as File History, Storage Spaces, and the updated Task Manager) were also regarded as positive changes.On the other hand, Peter Bright of Ars Technica felt that while its user interface changes may overshadow them, Windows 8's improved performance, updated file manager, new storage functionality, expanded security features, and updated Task Manager were still notably positive improvements for the operating system. Bright also felt that Windows 8's duality towards tablets and traditional PCs was an "extremely ambitious" aspect of the platform as well, but still criticized Microsoft for emulating Apple's model of a closed distribution platform when implementing the Windows Store.
The interface of Windows 8 has been the subject of mixed reaction. Peter Bright of Ars Technica felt that the "Edge UI" system of hot corners and edge swiping "wasn't very obvious" due to the lack of instructions provided by the operating system on the functions accessed through the user interface, even by the video tutorial added on the RTM release (which only instructed users to point at corners of the screen or swipe from its sides). Despite this self-described "stumbling block", Bright felt that Windows 8's interface worked well in some places, but began to feel incoherent when switching between the "Metro" and desktop environments, sometimes through inconsistent means.Tom Warren of The Verge felt that the new interface was "as stunning as it is surprising", contributing to an "incredibly personal" experience once it is customized by the user. However, at the same time, Warren felt that the interface had a steep learning curve, and was awkward to use with a keyboard and mouse. However, it was noted that while forcing all users to use the new touch-oriented interface was a risky move for Microsoft as a whole, it was necessary in order to push development of apps for the Windows Store.
Several notable video game developers criticized Microsoft for adopting a similar "walled garden" app distribution model to other mobile platforms with the introduction of the Windows Store—since they felt it conflicted with the traditional view of the PC as an open platform, due to the store's closed nature and certification requirements for compatibility and regulation of content. Markus "Notch" Persson specifically refused to accept help from a Microsoft developer to certify his popular game Minecraft for Windows 8 compatibility, replying with a request for the company to "stop trying to ruin the PC as an open platform. Gabe Newell (co-founder of Valve Corporation, who developed the competing software distribution platform Steam) described Windows 8 as being a "catastrophe for everyone in the PC space" due to the closed nature of the Windows Store. Rob Pardo from Activision Blizzard agreed with Gabe Newell by saying: "nice interview with Gabe Newell - "I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space* - not awesome for Blizzard either". Industry Veteran Casey Muratori had similar concerns.
Microsoft says that 4 million users upgraded to Windows 8 over the weekend after its release.