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Windows 8: Ballmer Shows Off 4 Features

At Dell World, Steve Ballmer gave attendees a look at some interesting changes in Windows 8 and Windows 8 server. Here's what they saw.
Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer Friday gave a quick, advanced peek at Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows Server 8 in his address to 2,000 attendees at Dell World in Austin, Texas. He acknowledged to the crowd of 2,000 that he was just "wetting your whistle," as opposed to offering full disclosure.

Here's what they saw:

--A lock screen that settles over the absent user's machine with a peaceful mountain view. Despite the lock, incoming email prompts an update on the number of unopened messages at a small envelope symbol. Social network updates or other active applications can post counts next to their symbols on the lock screen. When you come back to your desk, you can quickly tell how much has been going on in your absence.

--Once activated, the Start screen features a Metro-style user interface borrowed from the Windows Phone 7, and looks completely different from predecessor versions of Windows. The multicolored squares and rectangle tiles, each representing a user application, can be rearranged by touch drag and drop.

[ For more detail on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans, see Windows 8 To Dish Up Azure Services. ]

--The Start screen also features the ability to show a dashboard type extract from a favorite news feed, stock market report, or weather feed, each in their own tile and with the latest, updated information. Windows 8 is trying to make information that the user wants instantly available. --The control panel is a vastly simplified approach to managing the Windows desktop, with more general headings leading to additional click through steps to the simple functions underneath them.

--Windows Server 8 will include an easy to use management feature of the virtualized data center, live migrating virtual machines from one physical host to another without end users noticing.

Live migration first became part of Windows Server 2008, Release 2. Live migration is where, behind the scenes, much of the application, operating system, and data of the virtual machine is moved to a new physical location in advance. Then the last parts still being run at the original location are suspended and moved in a few fractions of a second. Live migration or vMotion, as it's known to VMware customers, has been a function of skilled virtual machine administrators up until now.

That process is simpler and smoother with the upcoming Windows Server 8, and a Ballmer lieutenant, Bryan Surace, illustrated the process on stage. He found the name of the target virtual machine on a list, right clicked on it, selected a new host, browsed its folders to give the migrating virtual machine a new home, then clicked Move.

With the virtual machine management built into Windows 8, any Windows Server administrator could handle live migration seemed to be the message behind the demonstration.