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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says that Windows 8 will launch in 2012, targeting both PCs and tablets.  (Source: Guardian UK)

Windows 8 increases the ribbon GUI element use, adds support for ARM CPUs, and more.  (Source: Paul Thurrott/Within Windows)
Microsoft's most "risky" product prepares for prime time

As far as secrets go, Windows 8 -- Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) successor to its best-selling Windows 7 personal computer OS -- hasn't exactly been the best kept.  But thus far there’s been little official confirmation of when the next OS would drop, what platforms it would be on, and what the official name would be.

Today at the 2011 Japanese Microsoft Developers Conference Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer answered some of those questions.

He referred to the new OS several times by the name "Windows 8", indicating this was the likely launch title.  He also said that the release date would be sometime "next year".

As for the launch platform, he remarked, "As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors."

Mr. Ballmer suggests that the line between tablets and PCs is blurring.  He states, "The form factor of the devices that we all use will continue to change. I think there will be a day in the future where it will be hard to distinguish a phone from a slate, from a PC. You literally will have displays that become paper thin and very easy to fold out form your phone. And at the same time, you're going to get more and more PC-like capabilities in smaller form factor devices."

While the chief executive is quite excited about this development, Microsoft may have cause for concern.  So far it's utterly failed (thanks in part to partner Intel Corp.'s (
INTClackadaisical performance) to capture tablet market share.  

Whether a PC-geared OS suitable for desktops and laptops can be competitive on tablets versus a dedicated touch-driven operating system like Android or iOS remains to be seen.  That may be kind of like expecting your minivan to do blistering laps on the local racetrack right after dropping off the kids.

Whether it's the growing tablet pressure, addition of ARM CPU support, the inclusion of the ribbon across more of the GUI, or the quicker development schedule, Mr. Ballmer has taken to referring to Windows 8 as his company's "riskiest product".

Leaked Windows 8 builds indicate that the company is nearing the closed beta build of the operating system.  A open public beta, similar to the incredibly popular Windows 7 public beta test program will likely follow, potentially around the January timeframe.

Mr. Ballmer's remarks were largely overshadowed by the preview of Windows Phone 7.1 "Mango", early today.  The upcoming smartphone operating system will launch this fall, packing over 500 new features.

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By icanhascpu on 5/24/11, Rating: 0
RE: Risky?
By wewter on 5/24/11, Rating: -1
RE: Risky?
By 3minence on 5/24/2011 3:37:51 PM , Rating: 3
I think the risky part is the expansion of windows from just a PC to now include tablets, and ARM based tablets at that. If that doesn't give Intel a kick in the butt, nothing will.

RE: Risky?
By damianrobertjones on 5/24/2011 5:11:00 PM , Rating: 5
No, sorry, Vista was not crap.

- oems shipping Vista with 512Mb ram
- Knowledge of superfetch was basic. Why is all my ram gone?

Dumb people and cheap oems made Vista crap.


RE: Risky?
By Motoman on 5/24/11, Rating: 0
RE: Risky?
By Pirks on 5/24/2011 6:57:39 PM , Rating: 5
Vista was crap, but Mojave was AWESOME!!!

(I'd 6 myself here if I could :P)

RE: Risky?
By Flunk on 5/24/2011 8:06:52 PM , Rating: 2
Readyboost is only on if you turn it on and Superfetch massively improves performance. Only someone who doesn't know anything about computers would say that Vista is only usable without two of its features disabled.

Windows 7 supports both as well.

RE: Risky?
By Motoman on 5/24/11, Rating: 0
RE: Risky?
By Motoman on 5/24/11, Rating: -1
RE: Risky?
By icanhascpu on 5/24/2011 9:03:33 PM , Rating: 1
Funny how I get a -1, even though I never said Vista was crap. I said it was more of a risk for them from XP than 8 is from 7.

People voting down a valid point simply because they dont agree are awesome.

RE: Risky?
By StevoLincolnite on 5/25/2011 12:23:37 AM , Rating: 2
You get voted down because people generally don't like your comment or don't agree with it... Not on the fact it's "Not worth reading".
Just how it is unfortunately mate...

RE: Risky?
By Motoman on 5/25/2011 8:31:00 PM , Rating: 2
Welcome to the internet.

And you are correct - Vista was a huge departure from XP, whereas 7 is just Vista with a couple tweaks here and there.

RE: Risky?
By DJ Brandon on 5/25/2011 11:39:55 PM , Rating: 2
Glad you said that. Glad someone realizes that.

RE: Risky?
By omnicronx on 5/24/2011 3:40:21 PM , Rating: 2
I love how everyone (including Jason) are making blind statements about what Windows 8 will and will not be based on early leaked Milestones (perhaps 1 or 2) and a mid Milestone 3 build?

They are not even done development people! And the major feature changes don't usually make their way in until the later milestone builds. (There is a lot of chatter of a major UI change whether that be a second UI or just changes to the base UI in general in milestone 4)

We have also yet to see much of the supposive cloud integration, or perhaps even integration of the just aquired Skype.

MS has actually been quite secretive with Windows 8, and nobody really knows what big changes are hiding around the corner. (heck even current features in the Milestone releases may not find their way into production)

RE: Risky?
By omnicronx on 5/24/2011 3:42:40 PM , Rating: 2
Who really knows though.. Perhaps M3 is the last before the closed beta, perhaps its not..

I don't think anyone can definitively say for sure.

RE: Risky?
By cmdrdredd on 5/25/2011 12:32:58 AM , Rating: 3
We have also yet to see much of the supposive cloud integration

The less the better. I personally don't trust ANYTHING, ANYTHING to any type of cloud system or interface. I want all my data on my local HDD, CD, DVD, Blu-Ray, Memory Stick, SD Card etc. I do not want to have to go outside my closed system to access anything. I shouldn't have to. Further I do not want my data and files to be out there for any old hacker to access. You remember what happened with the PS3 network, now they can steal your stuff too.

RE: Risky?
By epobirs on 5/24/11, Rating: 0
RE: Risky?
By FITCamaro on 5/24/2011 4:25:27 PM , Rating: 3
You realize that's exactly what Vista was right? Vista shares far more with Windows 7 than it does with XP. The fact that you didn't think it looked much different is irrelevant. Windows 7 essentially took Vista and streamlined it. Got rid of a lot of the overly annoying parts and improved performance.

You are correct that Vista ended up being far less risky than it was originally intended to be though.

RE: Risky?
By KoolAidMan1 on 5/24/2011 5:33:48 PM , Rating: 2
I don't understand this. Do you realize that Windows Vista shares way more in common with 7 than it does with XP? Vista SP1 honestly doesn't feel that far off from Windows 7, a few UI improvements aside.

I think Windows 7 is great, but I don't argue when people jokingly call it Windows Vista SP3

RE: Risky?
By B3an on 5/25/2011 7:17:35 PM , Rating: 1
You're right and this isn't even debatable. 7 is a rather small departure from Vista. But with Vista a lot changed from XP, not just the UI and features but tons of stuff under the hood, which 7 has only refined.

Ribbon, ugh!
By tlbj6142 on 5/24/2011 3:10:34 PM , Rating: 5
Windows 8 increases the ribbon GUI element use
Anyone else hate the ribbon UI paradigm as much as I do?

It is nice for "Top 10" features, but I always feel like some advanced features/options have been lost and I spend forever looking for them.

RE: Ribbon, ugh!
By omnicronx on 5/24/2011 3:18:35 PM , Rating: 2
If the top ten features are on the main ribbon panel, and a large percentage of users will infrequently if ever touch anything outside of these top 10. (most if not all non power users) Then are they really heading in the wrong direction?

Do you really think that UI design should be based on power user habits?

The fact remains you are merely used to it after 20-30 odd years of dealing with a context menu driven OS. Merely looking at every major browser of today shows where everyone (not just MS) is heading. Simple, elegant design, with most of the fined tuned options available under the hood.

RE: Ribbon, ugh!
By Tanclearas on 5/25/2011 7:05:59 AM , Rating: 1
More intuitive != intuitive

New users struggle with the interface regardless. They just happen to struggle less. However, even that statement is only true in the "closed laboratory" sense. New users (with ribbon) struggle more because there are fewer ribbon-experienced users to assist them.

The ribbon has made the "top 10" easier to find, while the remaining features have actually become much more difficult to find. If people just wanted to see/use the "top 10" features of Word, then they could have just used WordPad.

RE: Ribbon, ugh!
By spread on 5/24/2011 3:40:13 PM , Rating: 3
I like it. You can pack many more functions in the ribbon (and cleanly) than a wall of buttons.

I would like it to be more customizable though.

RE: Ribbon, ugh!
By gamerk2 on 5/24/2011 3:54:50 PM , Rating: 1
The Ribbon is a waste of vertical space, and this will especially show on Tablets [the real reason for ARM support, of course]. If theres no classic interface, I will not use an OS that takes that much of my realestate away from me.

RE: Ribbon, ugh!
By omnicronx on 5/24/2011 4:06:59 PM , Rating: 2
A waste of space compared to what?

Context menus flat out don't work on the tablet form factor, so what exactly is your point?

There is not a mobile platform out there that has been successful with the old context styled navigation. You need bigger buttons and most likely less of them for touch input.

Furthermore as stated below, the idea that UI design should be based on the needs of power users is flat out ridiculous. Windows is completely customizable, so I truly don't see why you are complaining about the default UI settings when it can most likely be changed for your liking. Out of box, an OS should be well suited for the average user, not the average power user.

RE: Ribbon, ugh!
By epobirs on 5/24/2011 4:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
I really, really, really doubt that the Ribbon is going to be the primary interface element for tablets under Windows 8. I strongly suspect MS is keeping their plans on that front deeply hidden as long a s possible. Once they have a decently modular ARM build, much as OS X was used for the iPhone, the single biggest make or break element is going to be what replaces the mouse-oriented desktop.

That modularity is important for reaching more lightweight tablets. While some devices will have full-blown Windows, others will need to dispense with big unneeded chunks of the OS to reduce overhead and improve both performance and battery life. If done right, the user will hardly notice because the missing portions won't factor into the use of the device.

Right off the bat, there are a couple gigabytes of drivers that can go away, though that will only affect the storage need for the base install.

RE: Ribbon, ugh!
By spread on 5/24/2011 8:39:58 PM , Rating: 1
The Ribbon is a waste of vertical space, and this will especially show on Tablets

You know what's a waste of space? A wall of buttons and menus.

RE: Ribbon, ugh!
By gamerk2 on 5/25/2011 10:00:36 AM , Rating: 2
Hence why I only want ONE menu bar, instead of the walls of extra buttons that have been added in over hte years.

Besides, the Ribbon is really bad when it comes to advanced functionallity, as those are generally hidden from the end-user; just had my corp convert to Office 2007, and not surprisingly, half the features we used on a day to day basis are hidden and no longer easily accessable to us in an easy manner, reducing productivity.

RE: Ribbon, ugh!
By Motoman on 5/24/2011 5:15:01 PM , Rating: 2
The ribbon categorically shows FEWER options per given area of screen space than traditional toolbars.

It is, in fact, a toolbar...with bigger buttons. That is all that it is. Well, other than the fact that you can only see one ribbon at once - which is another effect of the way they Playskool-sized everything.

That is the one and only difference between the "ribbon" and traditional toolbars - the ribbons waste more space because they made the buttons bigger. Yay.

I'll be waiting until the last possible moment to adopt Win8 unless there's an easy way to switch it to an intelligent GUI design.

Too soon?
By Sunagwa on 5/24/2011 3:34:03 PM , Rating: 4
Seems a bit soon to be releasing another version of windows already. Win7 works and functions great still.

In the end as a consumer this just seems like a way for them to add support for certain hardware features that is going to force me to buy a copy if I decide to upgrade my PC. Like Vista/Win7 did with DX10.1/11 support and Trim support(I skipped the whole Vista fiasco).

Hopefully they continue to support Win7 long after Win8's release(I'm sure they will but to what extent remains to be seen). This is just my humble opinion but I don't want to have to shell out $150 for a new OS every couple years. Technology moves fast but an OS should have more longevity then this.

RE: Too soon?
By damianrobertjones on 5/24/2011 5:15:32 PM , Rating: 2
MS used to always work on a 4 year release schedule. They missed a few with XP

RE: Too soon?
By KentState on 5/24/2011 6:06:23 PM , Rating: 2
IMO, 4 years is about as long as I want to go with any piece of software.

RE: Too soon?
By chochosan on 5/24/2011 6:12:44 PM , Rating: 1
I think they have to release Win8 soon, exactly because win7 is such a success - its already installed on most machines, now you have to make people install another version, once they reach a certain market penetration their income will start to decrease, because windows is a one time buy.

Also, it is much better to refine and release an updated version than to fall behind and try to create a totally new system - look at the gap between XP an Vista.

Another thing is, you have to not let people get too used to the current operating system, when someone works 7-8 years on the same OS it will be darn hard to make him switch and leave his comfort zone.

RE: Too soon?
By ertomas on 5/25/2011 11:26:22 AM , Rating: 2
XP was released on 2001 and OS X Leopard on 2007. People I know that bought apple computers are always saying how advanced OSX is.

When I ask then which was the last windows version they used, they answer: XP.

It's obvious that OSX has a better GUI and features over XP... It came out 6 years later!

My point is, MSFT hanged on to XP for too long, making it look outdated when compared to OSX and that was a mistake IMHO.

RE: Too soon?
By michael2k on 5/25/2011 6:48:44 PM , Rating: 2
How can it be too soon when Windows 7 doesn't support touch nor ARM?

Ballmer Still Has It Wrong!
By Arsynic on 5/24/2011 3:40:41 PM , Rating: 1
No one is going to be doing PC stuff on a phone and a tablet. Steve needs to go! As long as Microsoft treats every computing issue as a "nail, Windows will continue to be a last place "hammer." The company who realizes that the phone, tablet and PC are distinct platforms with some application overlap will be a success.

Throwing Windows and Word on everything won't work. Microsoft is living in the past and their business model dictates that they sell PCs, tablets and phones running Windows and Word. Because of this mentality they will be destroyed.

By damianrobertjones on 5/24/2011 5:16:58 PM , Rating: 2
Then why does iOS and OSX have an app store? Devices are merging together, as is Android so maybe YOU need to have another think

By StraightCashHomey on 5/24/2011 5:22:25 PM , Rating: 2
The response that Billy Madison got for his Industrial Revolution argument is the response I give to you.

RE: Ballmer Still Has It Wrong!
By Jeffk464 on 5/25/2011 1:52:32 AM , Rating: 2
MS is already to late to the party. People are already happy with android or IOS, both designed from the ground up for phones.

RE: Ballmer Still Has It Wrong!
By 3minence on 5/25/2011 10:41:36 AM , Rating: 2
Yes and no. A tablet is distinctly different from a PC, but they both need to do the same types of things. If I have a word document on a PC I should be able to edit it on the tablet. So both tablet and PC need to have a version of Word (or whatever) on both to edit it. They should have similar look and feel so I don't have to know two completely different word processors.

Obviously they are two different form factors, touch tablet versus keyboard and mouse for the PC, but they still need a certain level of cross functionality.

Won't sell tablets
By CColtManM on 5/24/2011 3:15:30 PM , Rating: 1
People always say Windows 7 is good enough on a tablet. Sure, it may be to you, but it won't compete with the "fun" or "easiness" as a tablet running iOS. Big Windows fan boy here, own an iPhone, and can see the difference.

Apps are easier to install and run than programs for Windows. Windows 7 plus a little more fluff = Windows 8, and it won't sell tablets. I'm hoping Windows 8 does, I just don't think it will.

Someone at Microsoft has to have a tablet, give Ballmer an iPad for a week, he may realize what needs to be done.

RE: Won't sell tablets
By Shadowmaster625 on 5/24/2011 4:17:55 PM , Rating: 1
"Fun" and "easy" are descriptions usually assigned to a toy. $500 is way to much to spend on something that carries the descriptions common to a toy. If I can get an actual tablet pc for the same price (something like a Acer W500), then obviously the choice is clear, for all but the kind of people who care about being trendy just for the sake of being trendy.

RE: Won't sell tablets
By robinthakur on 5/25/2011 10:45:16 AM , Rating: 2
Fine, go and play with your Acer tablet. Having tried one out yesterday I can say that the design, usability and overall execution are vastly inferior to the market leader in the tablet space. 5 hour battery life? What a joke! I predict that Acer will quickly discontinue the Windows Iconias, as using them gave me flashbacks of WiMo on my HTC TYTN and I can't for the life of me imagine more than a handful of people buying them. That Asus Transformer laptop sounds much better even with the bug whereby the camera doesn't work properly on the retail version (!).

RE: Won't sell tablets
By michael2k on 5/25/2011 6:53:16 PM , Rating: 2
Wait, so a Playstation Move Bundle is too much to spend on a toy? How about a 37" HDTV? Is that too much to spend on a toy? Or maybe a $16k Mazda Miata?

You seem to be an outlier, since many people spend way over $500 on toys.

Microsoft can make a great GUI
By dcollins on 5/24/2011 3:40:01 PM , Rating: 2
Have any of you used Zune on the Xbox 360? The interface is absolutely amazing: colorful and beautiful to look while remaining highly functional and making great use of screen real estate. It's search interface is better than anything I have seen on any 10 foot UI, period.

I say this to demonstrate that Microsoft is capable of designing a best in class, easy to use GUI. I hope they put some people from the Zune team on the Windows 8 tablet team. If they combine the user experience of the Zune for Xbox with the functionality and power of Windows, they could have a real winner on their hands.

PC Driven OS will fail
By tayb on 5/24/2011 8:36:51 PM , Rating: 2
Whether a PC-geared OS suitable for desktops and laptops can be competitive on tablets versus a dedicated touch-driven operating system like Android or iOS remains to be seen.

No, it doesn't remain to be seen. You cannot design an operating system with a mouse and keyboard in mind and expect it to work well on a touch device. It does not work.

You can design an OS that switches the UI for tablets but then you run into the issue of bloated installs, poor mobile performance, and abysmal battery life.

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