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Windows 8

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Windows 8
Part of the Microsoft Windows family
Windows 8 logo and wordmark.svg
Windows 8 Start Screen.png
Screenshot of the Start screen of Windows 8
Microsoft Corporation
Initial release August 1, 2012 (2012-08-01) [ info]
October 26, 2012 (2012-10-26) [ info]
Latest stable
6.2 (Build 9200) (August 1, 2012 (2012-08-01)) [ info]
License Proprietary commercial software
Kernel type Hybrid
Update method Windows Update
Platform support IA-32, x64, and ARM
Preceded by Windows 7 (2009)
Support status
  • Start date: October 30, 2012
  • Mainstream support: Until January 9, 2018
  • Extended support: Until January 10, 2023
Further reading
  • Features new to Windows 8
  • List of features removed in Windows 8
  • Windows 8 editions
  • Windows Store

Windows 8 is a version of Microsoft Windows (an operating system developed by Microsoft) for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablets, and home theatre PCs. Development of Windows 8 started before the release of its predecessor, Windows 7, 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 uses version 6.2 of the Windows NT kernel.

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 better compete with other mobile operating systems like Android and Apple's iOS. Windows 8 features a new touch user interface and shell based on Microsoft's "Metro" design language, featuring a new Start screen with a grid of dynamically updating tiles that represent applications. The Start screen replaces the "Start menu" of earlier Windows versions. There is a new app platform with an emphasis on touchscreen input, and the new Windows Store to obtain and/or purchase applications to run on the operating system.

In addition, Windows 8 takes advantage of new or emerging technologies like USB 3.0, 4Kn Advanced Format, near field communications, cloud computing, and the low-power ARM architecture. It includes new security features such as built-in antivirus capabilities, a new installation process optimized for digital distribution, and support for secure boot (a UEFI feature which allows operating systems to be digitally signed to prevent malware from altering the boot process). Synchronization of certain apps and settings between multiple devices is supported.

Windows 8 was released to mixed reception. Although reaction towards its performance improvements, security enhancements, and improved support for touchscreen devices was positive, the new user interface of the operating system has been widely criticized for being potentially confusing and difficult to learn (especially when used with a keyboard and mouse instead of a touchscreen). Despite these shortcomings, 60 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold through January 2013. This includes upgrades and sales to OEMs for new PCs.

Windows 8.1 is scheduled for later in 2013, and according to Microsoft will change "key aspects" of how Windows 8 is used.

Development history

Windows 8 development started before Windows 7 had shipped in 2009. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2011, Microsoft announced that the next version of Windows would add support for devices with ARM microprocessors, and showcased an early version of Windows 8 running on several proof-of-concept ARM devices. Details also began to surface about a new application framework for Windows 8 codenamed "Jupiter", which would be used to make "immersive" applications using XAML (similarly to Windows Phone and Silverlight) that could be distributed via a new packaging system and a rumored app store to be included in the OS

On June 1, 2011, Microsoft unveiled Windows 8's new user interface as well as additional features at both Computex Taipei and the D9: All Things Digital conference in California. The "Building Windows 8" blog launched on August 15, 2011, featuring details surrounding Windows 8's features and its development process.

Microsoft unveiled new Windows 8 features and improvements on the first day of the Build Conference on September 13, 2011. Microsoft released Windows 8 Developer Preview (build 8102) the same day, which included SDKs and developer tools (such as Visual Studio Express and Expression Blend) for developing applications for Windows 8's new interface. According to Microsoft, there were about 535,000 downloads of the developer preview within the first 12 hours of its release. Originally set to expire on March 11, 2012, in February 2012 the Developer Preview's expiry date was changed to January 15, 2013.

Three milestone releases of Windows 8 leaked to the general public. Milestone 1, Build 7850, was leaked on April 12, 2011. It was the first build where the text of a window was written centered instead of aligned to the left. It was also probably the first appearance of the Metro-style font, and its wallpaper had the text shhh... let's not leak our hard work. However, its detailed build number reveals that the build was created on September 22, 2010. The leaked copy edition was Enterprise edition. The OS still reads as "Windows 7". Milestone 2, Build 7955, was leaked on April 25, 2011. The traditional Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) was replaced by a new Black screen, although this was later scrapped. This build introduced a new ribbon in Windows Explorer. Build 7959, with minor changes but the first 64-bit version, was leaked on May 1, 2011. The "Windows 7" logo was temporarily replaced with text displaying "Microsoft Confidential". On June 17, 2011, build 7989 64-bit edition was leaked. It introduced a new boot screen featuring the same fish as the default Windows 7 Beta wallpaper, which was later scrapped, and the circling dots as featured in the final (although the final version comes with smaller circling dots throbber). It also had the text Welcome below them, although this was also scrapped.

On September 13, 2011, build 8102 (Windows 8 Developer Preview) was released to the public at Microsoft's BUILD Conference. The build was fully unlocked for the first time and had the new Start Screen, Metro UI and shipped with sample apps made by summer interns at Microsoft. The Windows Store did not work in this build. The build was aimed at developers to build Metro style apps.

On February 19, 2012, Microsoft unveiled a new logo to be adopted for Windows 8. Designed by Pentagram partner Paula Scher, the Windows logo was changed to resemble a set of four window panes. Additionally, the entire logo is now rendered in a single solid colour.

On February 29, 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8 Consumer Preview, the beta version of Windows 8, build 8250. For the first time since Windows 95, the Start button is no longer present on the taskbar, though the Start screen is still triggered by clicking the bottom-left corner of the screen and by clicking Start on the charms. Windows president Steven Sinofsky said more than 100,000 changes had been made since the developer version went public. The day after its release, Windows 8 Consumer Preview had been downloaded over one million times. Like the Developer Preview, the Consumer Preview expired on January 15, 2013.

Many other builds were released until the Japan's Developers Day conference, when Steven Sinofsky announced that Windows 8 Release Preview (build 8400) would be released during the first week of June. On May 28, 2012, Windows 8 Release Preview (Standard Simplified Chinese x64 edition, not China-specific version, build 8400) was leaked online on various Chinese and BitTorrent websites. On May 31, 2012, Windows 8 Release Preview was released to the public by Microsoft.

Major items in the Release Preview included the addition of Sports, Travel, and News apps, along with an integrated version of Flash Player in Internet Explorer. Like the Developer Preview and the Consumer Preview, the release preview expired on January 15, 2013.

On August 1, 2012, Windows 8 (build 9200) was released to manufacturing with the build number 6.2.9200.16384 . Microsoft planned to hold a launch event on October 25, 2012 and release Windows 8 for general availability on the next day. However, only a day after its release to manufacturing, a copy of the final version of Windows 8 Enterprise N (produced for European markets) leaked to the web, and several days later there were Pro and Enterprise leaks both IA-32 and x64. On August 15, 2012, Windows 8 was made available to download for MSDN and TechNet subscribers. Windows 8 was made available to Software Assurance customers on August 16, 2012. Windows 8 was made available for students with a DreamSpark Premium subscription on August 22, 2012, earlier than advertised.

Relatively few changes were made from the Release Preview to the final version; these included updated versions of its pre-loaded apps, the renaming of Windows Explorer to File Explorer, the replacement of the Aero Glass theme from Windows Vista and 7 with a new flat and solid-colored theme, and the addition of new background options for the Start screen, lock screen, and desktop. Prior to its general availability on October 26, 2012, updates were released for some of Windows 8's bundled apps, and a "General Availability Cumulative Update" (which included fixes to improve performance, compatibility, and battery life) was released on Tuesday, October 9, 2012. Microsoft indicated that due to improvements to its testing infrastructure, general improvements of this nature are to be released more frequently through Windows Update instead of being relegated to OEMs and service packs only.

Microsoft began an advertising campaign centered around Windows 8 and its Surface tablet in October 2012, starting with its first television advertisement premiering on October 14, 2012. Microsoft's advertising budget for the operating system is US$1.5–1.8 billion, making Windows 8 the industry's biggest product launch in history.

New and changed features

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, and hard disk 4Kn Advanced Format support, as well as support for near field communication to facilitate sharing and communication between devices.

Windows Explorer, which has been renamed File Explorer, now includes a ribbon in place of the command bar. File operation dialog boxes 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 users 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 ( PINs 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, including system recovery from USB drive. Windows 8's first security patches would be released on November 13, 2012; it would contain three fixes deemed "critical" by the company.

Online services and functionality

Windows 8 provides heavier integration with online services from Microsoft and others. Online services are regionally and nationally clipped or censored. For example, while online TV is available in the United States, such media distribution is blocked in Canada. 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. Initially, Adobe Flash would only work on sites included on a "Compatibility View" whitelist; however, after feedback from users and additional compatibility tests, an update in March 2013 changed this behaviour to use a smaller blacklist of sites with known compatibility issues instead, allowing Flash to be used on most sites by default. 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 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 will be more specialized than current desktop applications. Apps can run either in a full-screen mode, or be docked to the side of a screen. Apps can provide toast notifications on screen or animate their tiles on the Start screen with 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, Skype, and People service), while the Photos app can aggregate photos from services such as Facebook and Flickr.

Windows Store apps run within a new set of APIs known as the Windows Runtime, which supports programming languages such as C, C++, VB.NET, C#, along with HTML5 and JavaScript. Depending on the language used, apps written for Windows Runtime can be compatible with both Intel and ARM versions of Windows. Components may be compiled as Windows Runtime Components, permitting consumption by all of the Windows Runtime supported languages. To ensure stability and security, apps run within a sandboxed environment, and require permissions to access certain functionality, such as accessing the Internet or a camera.

Retail versions of Windows 8 will be able to install these apps only through the Windows Store—a namesake distribution platform which offers both apps and certified desktop applications. A method to sideload apps from outside the Windows Store is available to devices running Windows 8 Enterprise and joined to a domain; Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT devices that are not part of a domain can also sideload apps, but only after special product keys are obtained through volume licensing.

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) confirmed that "Windows Store apps" would be the official term for the apps.

Web browsers

Exceptions are given to web browsers classified as being "New experience enabled" (formerly "Metro-style enabled"), which provide a special version that runs within the "Metro" shell as an app. Web browser apps are distributed alongside desktop web browsers instead of through the Windows Store, and also have access to functionality unavailable to other apps, such as being able to permanently run in the background, use multiple background processes, and use Windows API code instead of WinRT (allowing for code to be re-used with the desktop version, while still taking advantage of WinRT features such as integration with the charms). However, only the user's default web browser can be used in this setting.

The developers of both Chrome and Firefox committed to developing versions of their browsers to run in this environment; while Chrome's "Windows 8 mode" uses the existing desktop interface, Firefox's version (which is currently available in development builds) uses a touch-optimized interface inspired by the mobile version of Firefox.

Interface and desktop

Windows 8 introduces significant changes to the operating system's user interface, many of which are aimed at 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. Alongside the traditional Control Panel, a new simplified and touch-optimized settings app known as "PC Settings" is used for basic configuration and user settings. It does not include many of the advanced options still accessible from the normal Control Panel.

A vertical toolbar known as the charms (accessed by swiping from the right edge of a touchscreen, or pointing the cursor at hotspots in the right corners of a screen) provides 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 favour of the Start button on the charms 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.

Blue Screen of Death in Windows 8

Secure boot

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.

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 use of alternate operating systems such as Linux. 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 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. Tom Warren, in an article on The Verge, said that other smartphones and tablets are typically sold in a locked-down state. No mandate is made regarding the installation of third-party certificates that would enable running alternative software.

Removed features

Several notable features have been removed in Windows 8, beginning with the traditional Start menu. 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, but the software (which also includes support for DVD playback) can be purchased in the "Pro Pack" (for the base version of Windows 8, which also upgrades the system to Windows 8 Pro) or "Media Centre Pack" (for Windows 8 Pro) add-ons. Windows 8 will still support third-party DVD playback software.

Backup and Restore, the former backup app of Windows, is deprecated. It still ships with Windows 8 and continues to work on preset schedules, but is pushed to the background and can only be accessed through a Control Panel applet called "Windows 7 File Recovery". Shadow Copy, a component of Windows Explorer that once saved previous versions of changed files, no longer protects local files and folders. It can only access previous versions of shared files stored on a Windows Server computer. The subsystem on which these components worked, however, is still available for other software to use.

Hardware requirements


The minimum system requirements for Windows 8 are slightly higher than those of Windows 7. Windows 8 requires that a system's CPU support certain hardware features, specifically the PAE, NX bit, and SSE2. Windows Store apps require a screen resolution of 1024×768 or higher to run, while a screen resolution of 1366×768 or higher is required to use the snapping functionality for apps.

Minimum hardware requirements for Windows 8
Criteria Minimum Recommended
Processor 1 GHz clock rate
IA-32 or x64 architecture
Support for PAE, NX and SSE2
x64 architecture
Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) support for Hyper-V
Memory (RAM) IA-32 edition: 1 GB
x64 edition: 2 GB
4 GB
Graphics Card DirectX 9 graphics device
WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
DirectX 10 graphics device
Display screen 1024×768 pixels 1366×768 pixels
Input device Keyboard and mouse A multi-touch display screen
Hard disk space IA-32 edition: 16 GB
x64 edition: 20 GB
Other USB 3.0 port
UEFI v2.3.1 Errata B with Microsoft Windows Certification Authority in its database
Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
Internet connectivity

To receive logo certification, Microsoft requires that x86 systems resume from standby in 2 seconds or less.

Tablets and convertibles

Microsoft released minimum hardware requirements for new tablet and convertible devices certified for Windows 8, and defined a convertible form factor as a standalone device that combines the PC, display and rechargeable power source with a mechanically attached keyboard and pointing device in a single chassis. A convertible can be transformed into a tablet where the attached input devices are hidden or removed leaving the display as the only input mechanism. On March 12, 2013, Microsoft amended its certification requirements to only require that screens on tablets have a minimum resolution of 1024×768 (down from the previous 1366×768). The amended requirement is intended to allow "greater design flexibility" for future products.

Hardware certification requirements for Windows tablets
Graphics card DirectX 10 graphics device with WDDM 1.2 or higher driver
Storage 10 GB free space, after the out-of-box experience completes
Standard buttons 'Power', 'Rotation lock', 'Windows Key', 'Volume-up', 'Volume-down'
Screen Touch screen supporting a minimum of 5-point digitizers and resolution of at least 1024×768. The physical dimensions of the display panel must match the aspect ratio of the native resolution. The native resolution of the panel can be greater than 1024 (horizontally) and 768 (vertically). Minimum native colour depth is 32-bits. If the display is under 1366×768, disclaimers must be included in documentation to notify users that the Snap function is not available.
Camera Minimum 720p
Ambient light sensor 1–30k lux capable with dynamic range of 5–60k
Accelerometer 3 axes with data rates at or above 50 Hz
USB 2.0 At least one controller and exposed port.
Connect Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE (low energy)
Other Speaker, microphone, magnetometer and gyroscope.

If a mobile broadband device is integrated into a tablet or convertible system, then an assisted GPS radio is required. Devices supporting near field communication need to have visual marks to help users locate and use the proximity technology. The new button combination for Ctrl + Alt + Del is Windows Key + Power.

Editions and pricing

Windows 8 is available in four editions: one simply named Windows 8 is intended for mainstream consumers. Windows 8 Pro 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 RT is only available as pre-loaded software on new ARM-based devices built specifically for the OS.

Windows Media Center is not included by default in any edition of Windows 8, but is available for purchase as an add-on for Windows 8 Pro, or as part of a "Pro Pack" upgrade for the basic version of Windows 8 which also includes the Pro upgrade. The Windows Media Centre add-on was offered for free until January 31, 2013.

Users of previous versions of Windows can purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro online (using a download that can be optionally burned to a DVD), or through boxed copies at retail on DVD. Microsoft offered Windows 8 Pro upgrades at a discounted price of US$39.99 online, or $69.99 for retail box DVD, from its launch until January 31, 2013; afterward the Windows 8 price has been $119.99 and the Pro price $199.99. Additionally, the "Full" and "OEM" SKUs of Windows (which can be installed on a computer with no existing operating system) have been replaced by a single "System Builder" SKU, intended to be used by original equipment manufacturers and hobbyists building their own systems.

Microsoft also offered 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 could digitally purchase a Windows 8 Pro upgrade for $14.99 USD. 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).

In November 2012, a complaint was filed with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, alleging that Microsoft was deliberately misleading consumers by not including prominent labels on Windows 8's retail packaging indicating it is only an upgrade version that cannot be installed without an existing version of Windows present (unlike previous versions, which did contain such markings, and were sold at retail in both upgrade and full versions).

Software compatibility

The three desktop editions of Windows 8 are sold in two sub-editions: 32-bit and 64-bit. The 32-bit sub-edition runs on CPUs compatible with x86 architecture 3rd generation (known as IA-32) or newer, and can run 32-bit and 16-bit applications, although 16-bit support must be enabled first. (16-bit applications are developed for CPUs compatible with x86 2nd generation, first conceived in 1978. Microsoft started moving away from this architecture since Windows 95.)

The 64-bit sub-edition runs on CPUs compatible with x86 8th generation (known as x86-64, or x64) or newer, and can run 32-bit and 64-bit programs. 32-bit programs and operating system are restricted to supporting only 4 gigabytes of memory while 64-bit systems can theoretically support 2048 gigabytes of memory. 64-bit operating systems require a different set of device drivers than those of 32-bit operating systems.

Windows RT, the only edition of Windows 8 for systems with ARM processors, only supports applications included with the system (such as a special version of Office 2013), supplied through Windows Update, or Windows Store apps, to ensure that the system only runs applications that are optimized for the architecture. Windows RT does not support running IA-32 or x64 applications. Windows Store apps can either be cross-compatible between Windows 8 and Windows RT, or compiled to support a specific architecture.


Windows 8 Ultrabooks in a Microsoft Store


Reviews of the various editions of Windows 8 have been mixed. The Verge said that although Windows 8's emphasis on touch computing was significant and risked alienating desktop users, a "tablet PC with Windows 8 makes an iPad feel immediately out of date" due to the capabilities of the operating system's hybrid model and increased focus on cloud services. In contrast, ExtremeTech article said it was Microsoft "flailing" and review in PC Magazine was "condemning the Metro Interface". Some of the included apps in Windows 8 were considered to be basic and lacking in 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. Peter Bright of Ars Technica wrote 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 positive improvements for the operating system. Bright also said that Windows 8's duality towards tablets and traditional PCs was an "extremely ambitious" aspect of the platform as well, but 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. Bright wrote 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 " stumbling block", Bright said 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 wrote that the new interface was "as stunning as it is surprising", contributing to an "incredibly personal" experience once it is customized by the user, but had a steep learning curve, and was awkward to use with a keyboard and mouse. He 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. Others, such as Adrian Kingsley-Hughes from ZDNet, did not take the new interface well, and wrote that Windows 8's "design failures, particularly with 'Metro UI', will likely be its downfall."

Several notable video game developers criticized Microsoft for making its Windows Store a closed platform subject to its own regulations, as it conflicted with their view of the PC as an open platform. Markus "Notch" Persson, Gabe Newell (co-founder of Valve Corporation and developer of software distribution platform Steam), and Rob Pardo from Activision Blizzard voiced concern about the closed nature of the Windows Store. However, Tom Warren of The Verge stated that Microsoft's addition of the Store was simply responding to the success of both Apple and Google in pursuing the "curated application store approach."

In 2013, Frank X. Shaw, a Microsoft corporate vice president, said that while many of the negative reviews were extreme, it was a "good thing" that Microsoft was "listening to feedback and improving a product".

Market share

Microsoft says that 4 million users upgraded to Windows 8 over the weekend after its release, which CNET says was well below Microsoft's internal projections and have been described inside the company as disappointing.

On November 27, 2012, Microsoft announced that it has sold 40 million licenses of Windows 8 in the first month, surpassing the pace of Windows 7.

However, according to research firm NPD, sales of devices running Windows in the United States have declined 21 percent compared to the same time period in 2011. As the holiday shopping season wrapped up, Windows 8 sales continued to lag, even as Apple reported brisk sales. The market research firm IDC reported an overall drop in PC sales for the quarter, and said the drop may have been partly due to consumer reluctance to embrace the new features of the OS and poor support from OEM for these features. This capped the first year of declining PC sales to the Asia Pacific region, as consumers bought more mobile products from Apple and Android than PCs with Microsoft's OS.

Windows 8 had a 3.84% usage rate according to numbers posted in May 2013 by Net Applications, with usage on a steady upward trajectory. However, intake of Windows 8 still lags behind that of Windows Vista and Windows 7 at the same point in their release cycles. Windows 8's tablet market share has also been growing steadily, with 7.4% of tablets running Windows in Q1 2013 according to Strategy Analytics, up from nothing just a year before. However, this was still well below Android and iOS, which posted 43.4% and 48.2% market share respectively.

The Economist has speculated that Microsoft's moves to drop support for previous versions of its software may be intended to force users to upgrade to Windows 8, but that this might backfire and see even more users flee the Windows platform entirely. In March 2013, Microsoft also amended its certification requirements to allow tablets to use the 1024x768 resolution as a minimum; this change is expected to allow the production of certified Windows 8 tablets in smaller form factors. Despite the reaction of industry experts, Microsoft reported that they had sold 100 million licenses in the first six months. This matched sales of Windows 7 over a similar period.


Windows 8.1

On March 26, 2013, Microsoft officially acknowledged Windows "Blue", the internal codename for an update to Windows 8. A public preview of Windows Blue is scheduled to be released at the 2013 Build Conference, held in June 26–28, 2013 in San Francisco. The update is expected to be released later in 2013.

On May 14, Microsoft officially announced that the "Blue" update will be named Windows 8.1 and will be a free update to Windows 8 for consumers through the Windows Store with a public preview of Windows 8.1 available starting on June 26.

Internet leaks of confidential builds have revealed the following enhancements:

  • Components:
    • New Metro-style apps: a calculator, alarm clock, sound recorder, video editing app and a file manager
    • Internet Explorer 11: Includes WebGL and SPDY support and redesigned developer tools.
    • PC Settings app: Includes more options that were previously exclusive to Control Panel
    • Windows PowerShell v4.0: Features a host of new commands for managing the Start screen, Windows Defender, Windows components, hardware and network.
  • Start screen:
    • The "All Apps" section, now accessed with a hidden downward arrow or upward touch gesture, features a visible search bar. It is dismissed by similar button with an upward arrow.
    • Start screen tiles can now be locked in place to prevent accidental shifting of tiles that results in frustrating loss of organization.
    • More size options for live tiles on Start screen: small, medium and large plus an extra large size for Desktop tile The "small" size is one fourth of default size in Windows 8.
    • Expanded color options on the Start screen, which now allows users to customize a colour and a shade of one's own choice instead of choosing from limited colors
    • Start screen's uninstall command allows Metro-style apps to be uninstalled from multiple computers.
  • New technologies:
    • ReFS
    • Miracast
    • Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface
    • Universal Flash Storage
  • The charms:
    • "Take screenshot" option in the Share charm
    • "Play" option in the Devices charm for playing content to another device
  • Windows Runtime environment:
    • Improved multi-tasking in Metro-style environment: The size of the columns that snapped apps occupy can be changed, although the minimum remains Windows 8's 320 pixels. Snapped apps may occupy half of the screen. Large screens allow up to four apps to be snapped. Upon launching an app, Windows allows the user to pick which snapped view the app should open into.
    • Kiosk mode: Locks down the device to a single Metro-style app for an embedded-like terminal experience.
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