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8 Great New Features in Windows 8

It's being rumored that Windows 8 could possibly make its debut as early as next week, even though release may not actually occur until 2012 or early 2013.

Here's a list of the features, products and technologies that are likely to be included in Windows 8 that we're most looking forward to seeing:

1. Roaming profiles and cloud working. With the release of Office Web Apps, it was obvious that Microsoft had finally caught on that many of us are now working in the cloud. With Windows 8, integrated cloud features are coming to the desktop OS, too. According to some leaked presentations detailing updates for Windows 8, "Roaming profiles" will enable users to bring selected settings (like mouse, network and taskbar preferences) with them via the cloud just by logging into a machine with their "online" password, which will presumably be linked to a Windows Live account. This should offer a much more streamlined way to move between different computers (and mobile devices, as Windows 8 will also be available for tablets). When coupled with Office Web Apps and file storage via Windows Live Skydrive, this feature should mean being being able to log off from one machine, and then on logging into any other Windows 8 machine instantly being able to resume work, with all of your files, apps and settings available.

2. Portable Workspaces. Another feature that will help users to take their work with them, portable workspaces can put a runnable copy of Windows 8 onto a USB stick to boot any computer. It's described in a leaked screenshot of a setup window as "a feature that allows you to run Windows from a USB storage device." It sounds great, but there are a few caveats, however. Apparently you'll need a USB stick with a hefty capacity (at least 16GB) to be able to use Portable Workspaces, and it will also only be available to Enterprise Edition customers. Additionally, I'm sure there will be many restrictions in place to stop users abusing the feature to make illegal copies of the OS.

3. Hybrid boot. Tired of sitting around, waiting around for a machine to boot up? Windows 8's hybrid boot is a cross between a full system shutdown and hibernation. By hibernating selected core system files, startup time can be greatly shortened, typically reducing it to around 20 seconds, according to some reports.

4. Windows Store. Following Apple's lead, Microsoft will include an app store with the new OS, possibly to be called Windows Store. I'm looking forward to this because an app store will make it easy to discover interesting and useful new apps, and also because an App Store and its potential revenues will encourage developers to spend time developing niche software that would probably otherwise have to be a labor of love, or released as shareware. It should also make for easier application updates, and also make it simple for users to install the same set of apps on other Windows machines. There is plenty of interesting and useful software for the Mac in Apple's App Store, so I'm really looking forward to seeing whether Microsoft's version will provide similar choice for Windows 8.

5. Internet Explorer 10. After neglecting its browser for years, Microsoft picked up its game with the release of IE9, which included a much snappier JavaScript processor and greatly improved support for web standards, and in particular the newer web technologies like HTML5, which modern web apps are beginning to rely upon. It's likely that the browser that ships with Windows 8 will be IE10, which should build on the foundations laid with IE9 and offer even greater support for the newer web standards, which should lead to even richer web experiences for everyone.

6. Bundled PDF Reader. Another feature that's following Apple's lead, Windows 8 will come with its very own simple PDF reader. Dubbed Modern Reader, it is built using the new Windows 8 AppX technology, which means it should work in both desktop and mobile environments.

7. History vault. This is an automated backup utility that works in a very similar manner to Apple's Time Machine. Users will be able to restore and edit documents from points in time via an easy-to-use graphical interface.

8. Skype integration. Finally, given Microsoft's recent acquisition of popular VoIP provider Skype, I wouldn't be surprised to see Skype features integrated into the OS.

For more information on updating the Windows software on your PC, contact Drake Hardware & Software at 319-752-1155.