Windows 8 New Features: Microsoft Opens The Kimono

Microsoft demos a range of new features for its OS code-named Windows 8, including support for non-Intel processors and support for NVIDIA's upcoming quad-core chipset.

At Microsoft's BUILD 2011 conference today, Microsoft gave developers a full preview of its upcoming Windows 8, showing a number of features it had yet to reveal at previous events this year.

"We reimagined Windows," said Steve Sinofsky, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows Division. To the thousands of developers gathered in Anaheim, Sinofsky said Windows 8 was a complete revamp "without compromise" from the chip level to the UI.

Sinofsky and other execs showed Windows 8 running on three tablets, including a prototype i5-based Samsung tablet, a Qualcomm-powered tablet, and a tablet based on NVIDIA's upcoming quad-core Tegra 3 chipset. That is the processor reportedly inside Amazon's so-called movie-streaming "Hollywood" tablet now in the works.

Though there are too many new features in Windows 8 to mention here, here is a top line of what Microsoft announced before a mid-day break and where BYTE wants to focus first in our continuing coverage of BUILD 2011.

And yes, Ctrl+Alt+Del still works.

Note: The following feature list is based on the Microsoft demo and not a hands-on test by BYTE or any attendees.

- Faster boot times. The demo showed a system cold boot--in eight seconds.

- Syncable settings on any Windows 8 device.

- Native support for Windows 7 applications.

- Built-in Hyper-V virtualization technology.

- Touch support, including the option to use thumbs to navigate on Windows 8 tablets.

- SkyDrive storage support to work with Windows Live, Hotmail and all other Microsoft cloud services.

- SkyDrive storage support for third-party services including Facebook, Flickr, and LinkedIn.

- Multi-monitor support built in, allowing the Windows 8 new Metro UI to operate on one monitor, while the basic Windows desktop UI shows on another.

- Enhanced security features, including an improved Windows Defender built into the OS. Sinofsky demonstrated how Windows 8 could not and would not boot from a rootkit-infected USB stick.

- Eventual availability of both Win32 apps and Metro apps for Windows 8 via Windows Store.

- Support for non-Intel CPUs by the time it ships commercially. That includes ARM, AMD, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments.

- NFC support allowing tap-to-share among users.

- Single-development platform. There is one Windows 8 API on both conventional computers and mobile devices such as tablets.

Microsoft launched the Windows 8 Developer Preview today. Download it here in both 32 & 64-bit versions.

There are two days left at BUILD and more announcements are planned. What are you hoping to see? What are your impressions so far? Let us know!

BYTE's Gina Smith and Brian Burgess also contributed to this article.

Based in southern California, Larry Press is a senior contributor at BYTE. Email him [email protected]

Email Gina Smith at [email protected] and Brian Burgess at [email protected]

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