Microsoft also is adding features to Windows 8 to make it more mobile-friendly, such as the ability to turn off radios and tools to reduce unnecessary bandwidth consumption.
Slideshow: Windows 8 Upgrade Plans: Exclusive Research
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While dropped Wi-Fi links can be frustrating, what can be even more aggravating is the process of trying to reconnect a PC or mobile device to a network after the signal is lost or when the host machine is resuming from standby. To reduce some of that pain, Microsoft says it's building technologies into Windows 8 that will get users onto a Wi-Fi network in as little as one second.
By contrast, it takes Windows 7 about 12 seconds on average to get users back online, according to Microsoft.
Windows 8 can "reconnect you faster to your preferred Wi-Fi networks by optimizing operations in the networking stack, and providing your network list, connection information, and hints to your Wi-Fi adapter," said Billy Anders, a group program manager on Microsoft's devices and networking team, in a blog post.
Windows 8 accomplishes speedy reconnections in part by more efficiently storing users' preferences for certain networks, security, and speed settings, and feeding that data to connectivity hardware. "Now when your PC resumes from standby, your Wi-Fi adapter already has all the information it needs to connect to your preferred Wi-Fi networks," said Anders.
Microsoft is also building other new features into Windows 8 that should make it easier for users to manage wireless networks. Many of the new features and settings, such as Airplane Mode, appear to be designed with tablets in mind. "The new Windows 8 network settings allow you to turn individual radios on and off (Wi-Fi, mobile broadband, or Bluetooth), as well as disable all radios at once with the new 'airplane' mode,'" said Anders.
Other new features that show Microsoft wants Windows 8 to be as at home on tablets as it is on laptops and PCs include tools that help users ensure that they don't suffer from "bill shock" on their monthly statements from wireless carriers. "We assume that mobile broadband networks have restrictive data caps with higher overage costs (vs. Wi-Fi), and adjust networking behavior with these metered networks accordingly," said Anders.
Among other things, Windows 8 will automatically disconnect users from a mobile broadband network and connect to a presumably less expensive Wi-Fi network when the latter is available.
It's also providing tools that developers can use to build applications that can sense whether they're on Wi-Fi or on a broadband network, and adjust their behavior accordingly. For instance, a video application could switch from high-definition to low-definition if it's on a metered 3G or 4G network.
"All Metro-style apps in the Windows Store must implement these APIs if they use the network," said Anders.
Microsoft is counting on Windows 8 to finally make it a player in the tablet maker, which is currently dominated by Apple and Google and its OEM partners. To that end, it's added the touch-friendly Metro UI to Windows 8, and is building a version that runs on low-power ARM-based processors. A ship date for Windows 8 has yet to be announced.
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