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The successor to Windows 7 may soon greet the masses

One of the major keys to Windows 7's great success and massive rebound from the disappointment of Vista was the incredibly popular public beta test program that launched at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2009.  Two years later Microsoft is well on the way to releasing the successor to the popular Windows 7, Windows 8, and it's reportedly preparing for a new beta program.

Softpedia reported last week that it received "Windows 8 Build 6.2.7959.0 Milestone 3 (M3)", an important preliminary build.  Compiled March 7, 2011 (based on the name string of the full build of the release), if authentic the build indicates that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is closing in on Build 8000 -- typically the build at which it launches a beta.

According to CentrumXP, developers now have access to "Build 6.2.7996.0.winmain_win8m3.110429-181" in the winmain_win8m3 branch.  The number in its build string (110429) indicates a release date of April 29, 2011.

That means that by now the Build 8000 may be compiled and almost ready to go.  It still remains to be seen, though, if the rumors are true and this is a beta build.  

One thing that calls that theory into question is the rumor that Microsoft will be working on Milestone 3 from February to July.  A finished build in May is way ahead of that schedule and doesn't quite add up.

According to rumors and leaks, Microsoft will wrap up Milestone 3, move on to a single beta, and finally air a release candidate before a commercial launch in late 2012/early 2013.  

Microsoft appears to be transitioning to a slightly faster release cycle, similar to what Apple does with OS X.  Whether that shorter release cycle will be accompanied by lower upgrade pricing remains to be seen.

The company is expected to possibly release the beta code to the broader developer community (only select developers have the current Milestone builds), and possibly announce a public beta at the Professional Developers Conference 2011 (PDC 2011) September 13–16, 2011, in Anaheim, California.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bills Windows 8 as his company's "riskiest product".  A preview that leaked about a month back showed a GUI similar to Windows 7, but with Microsoft Office's Ribbon inserted in new locations like the Windows Explorer.  Builds have also been seen running on ARM CPUs, which look to begin displacing Intel Corp. (INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.'s (AMD) x86 designs in mobile computers and servers over the next several years.

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What's so risky?
By 3minence on 5/11/2011 9:39:05 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bills Windows 8 as his company's "riskiest product".

What's so risky? The fact that it also runs on Arm? That's not risky. If it ONLY ran on Arm, yea, that would be risky. Maybe its 64bit only? That's kinda risky but not too risky.

RE: What's so risky?
By phatboye on 5/11/2011 9:45:15 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bills Windows 8 as his company's "riskiest product".
What's so risky? The fact that it also runs on Arm? That's not risky. If it ONLY ran on Arm, yea, that would be risky. Maybe its 64bit only? That's kinda risky but not too risky.

my guess is that by saying "riskiest product" he is referring to the drastic UI changes that I have seen floating about the interwebs I could be wrong though.

RE: What's so risky?
By Breakfast Susej on 5/11/2011 11:09:03 AM , Rating: 5
I can think of two ways in which it is risky without going into anything regarding the specifics of the OS at all.

Number one being that it has been a relatively short time since Windows 7 released.

Number two being that Windows 7 has been extremely popular and well received.

When you look back at the history of it despite the fact that Windows 7 is essentially a polished version of Vista, Vista was horribly received for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which being the attachment to XP.

Following a well loved product is inherently risky, particularly if there is any change involved whatsoever. It wouldn't even take "drastic" changes in my opinion to get some people up in arms about 8.

If it indeed does have changes along the magnitude of the ribbon bar in office I would have to agree that they could have a backlash on hand. Do not misunderstand, I don't have a problem with changes such as the ones in office. I didn't have a problem with Vista either. Likewise I doubt I will have a problem with 8 unless it is horribly flawed in some real way (not in an imaginary way, such as the way Vista and Office 2007+ were demonized)

RE: What's so risky?
By omnicronx on 5/11/11, Rating: 0
RE: What's so risky?
By Breakfast Susej on 5/11/2011 11:21:38 AM , Rating: 2
Did you read my post I wonder?

I pointed out that I don't have a problem with the ribbon interface. I even went so far as to classify the "problems" with Vista and Office 2007+ as "imaginary"

I like the ribbon interface and use office 2007.

RE: What's so risky?
By omnicronx on 5/11/2011 11:22:47 AM , Rating: 2
I was responding to your backlash comment, not specifically to you ;)

RE: What's so risky?
By Breakfast Susej on 5/11/2011 11:29:08 AM , Rating: 2
Evolution of the GUI as a whole is a good thing.

Still Microsoft to me is a victim of their own success. The demographic of users that Windows targets seems to be highly resistant to change.

Namely business users.

I don't see this as having changed a lot since the transition from XP to Vista. They could in my opinion still suffer a large backlash from "stick in the mud" users.

I don't have a solution to the problem other than take the pain and make the change. Which is a path they have stuck to. I do give Microsoft credit in this at least. They are not afraid to take the pain so to speak in the name of progress.

RE: What's so risky?
By merc14 on 5/11/2011 8:04:25 PM , Rating: 3
You got that right! Most of us love change but the business market sees it as a nightmare and rightfully so when you consider their situation.

RE: What's so risky?
By seamonkey79 on 5/11/2011 8:21:14 PM , Rating: 2
Major changes in interface require re-training your entire workforce... using the same basic interface that essentially all of your employees have been using since 1995... saves money.

RE: What's so risky?
By tastyratz on 5/11/2011 11:55:08 PM , Rating: 3
I support a gaggle of women 40-60 running 800x600 xp boxes and likely to make my life a living hell after deployment if the ribbon was their only option. Easy to say suck it up when its a single 20 something year old power user single install. Ribbon rollout involves training classes, strategic coordination, and flights.

RE: What's so risky?
By DarkUltra on 5/11/2011 8:37:27 PM , Rating: 2
If theres a change, it must truly be better. I don't use Word or Excel much so I can't say if the new ribbon menus is good for me. But I use Windows Explorer a lot to arrange and view files. In Windows Vista and 7, they removed the option to "go up" and replaced it with breadcrumbs. I guess that is indeed faster than an up button since Explorer is considerably slower than its counterpart in XP. But removing the possibility to "go up" or breadcrumb to the desktop is a real nuisance for me. I like to have the Desktop available as a windows so I can move and manage files between other folders much easier than using the "Show desktop" button. I have to click the small double arrow beside the breadcrumbs to get to the desktop - this is much slower than an "up" button, or to breadcrumb there. There was an old version of Windows that also lacked this option, windows 98? I guess they wanted to make the desktop work less as a folder and more as the desktop?

I also miss cut, copy past buttons, properties button and the ability to quickly see how big a file, or several selected files in the details pane that replaced the status bar. I welcome the new options to view resolution and add tags to an image, but the size of the file or files should always be there.

Windows Explorer in windows vista and 7 is incredibly slow at listing files. You select several files, for instance about 500 files in the system32 directory, and get an option to click "Show more details..." and it takes up to 30 seconds to present the size of all the files. In XP it does it dynamically and instantly as you select the files. File operations was very slow in Vista, but improved with service packs and updates, but still it is much slower than XP. I guess Microsoft wants to slow down their new OS so people have to buy a new PC - and thus a guaranteed a new OS license. I'm all for new features, I love the start menu and explorer search feature in Windows Vista/7, but this new explorer is really bad.

RE: What's so risky?
By Solandri on 5/11/2011 1:06:07 PM , Rating: 2
Context styled menus are dated and boring. Do you really think they are going to last forever? Heck there is not a single OS that is not in the process of phasing them out. (from nix to OSX to Windows)

Simplified menus that have the most commonly used buttons make more sense and if not for the fact that context style menus were not so engrained within all OS's over the past 30 years, you probably would not be so adamant about he change in the first place.

I still don't understand this. The idea behind GUIs of old was a two-pronged approach to the user interface problem. You had certain functions which got used a lot. And you had hundreds (sometimes thousands) of functions which got used rarely.

The functions which got used a lot would be learned naturally by the user, through use. Priority was given to minimizing the time/effort needed to use them. These became the buttons on the GUI, placed so they were obvious to find and could be used quickly.

The complex functions which got used rarely usually wouldn't be learned by the user. So instead, the program had to provide a way for the user to quickly and easily find the specific function s/he was searching for. Thus was born the context-styled menu.

This new trend seems to be trying to take the context-style menu, and jam it into an ever-changing row of buttons. You lose the best of both worlds. You lose the quick access to frequently used buttons. Now you have to click an extra button to get access to them. And you lose the ability to look up, by context, a function you don't know about but should/could be there. Instead you have to sift through every single function trying to find the one you need.

I'm not ragging on the ribbon. I think it's a good solution to the problem of not having enough GUI space to contain all the buttons of frequently used functions. But the really frequently used buttons should remain on the GUI regardless of which mode the ribbon is in. The functions with intermediate use go into the ribbon. And the context-styled menu should remain so you can (1) easily find the functions which you'll only use once in a blue moon, and (2) have a readily accessible hierarchical list of every single function the program can do.

You can relegate the menu to the last entry in each ribbon mode, but it needs to remain. Some people categorize functions by physical location - buttons and ribbons are good for them. Others categorize functions by function - the hierarchical menu needs to remain for them.

RE: What's so risky?
By adiposity on 5/11/2011 1:59:51 PM , Rating: 2
I never got used to using the buttons in Office. Instead I relied on right-click and the menu system. I found the words reassuring, but buttons which sometimes had confusing or just indecipherable icons remained unclicked.

Now, obviously, I am forced to use these things in the ribbon. To a certain extent, then, the ribbon has been a success as I learn to do things "in one click." On the other hand, I feel like things aren't where they are ought to be, and I'm searching through graphical toolbars to find something that would be more easily found by reading words. Quite frequently I find myself using the right click to do things that I used to do through the menus.

There is a learning curve associated with the ribbon, but overall I think it is an improvement over menu driven interfaces. The ability to generate ribbon elements as needed (tables, for example) is a plus. I guess my only complaint is the loss of the old menus. It would be nice to be able to get to features "the old way" when you don't feel like learning a new toolbar today. But that's how you learn, I guess.

RE: What's so risky?
By jonmcc33 on 5/11/2011 11:51:15 AM , Rating: 2
Number one being that it has been a relatively short time since Windows 7 released.

Not really. By the time Windows 8 comes out I am sure Windows 7 will be more than 2 years old. That is normal OS release cycle (not counting the mistake of Windows XP). Linux and Mac users are used to that.

Number two being that Windows 7 has been extremely popular and well received.

Which was positive given the horrible press that Windows Vista got. It depends if they are trying to revamp the OS the way they did from Windows XP to Vista and whether they allow enough public testing, etc from the Beta and RC before the product goes final.

RE: What's so risky?
By Da W on 5/11/2011 9:52:17 AM , Rating: 2
Is ARM 64 bits?

RE: What's so risky?
By omnicronx on 5/11/2011 11:20:50 AM , Rating: 2
Not yet.. Though word has it that Nvidia is going to be adding a 64bit instruction set to the ARM architecture with a full blown custom chip.

RE: What's so risky?
By Reclaimer77 on 5/11/2011 12:38:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I mean, I KNOW Windows XP had way too long of a ride. But I'm really loving Windows 7 and definitely want to use it for a good while longer before already having 8 come out.

RE: What's so risky?
By jonmcc33 on 5/11/2011 7:05:28 PM , Rating: 2
And you will be able to for quite some time. Windows Vista is supported until 2017 and Windows 7 will be beyond that.

RE: What's so risky?
By Justin Time on 5/11/2011 6:18:52 PM , Rating: 3
Perhaps the biggest risk is that Win7 will become the new XP... with people not seeing a compelling reason for upgrading, and believing they should skip it, same as they skipped Vista.

RE: What's so risky?
By geekman1024 on 5/11/2011 11:09:40 PM , Rating: 2
maybe he actually means RISC-ky?

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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