Microsoft will unveil the much-anticipated Windows 8 tablet
The new version of Windows will most likely include a "hybrid boot" using "advanced hibernation functionality," According to the Windows 8 Italia Website. Thus computers would shut down and start up faster--perhaps in as little as 20 seconds.
The upcoming Windows 8 will also likely offer 3D support and facial recognition, and have built-in access to the Microsoft app store. It almost sounds like Microsoft is taking a cue from the tablet market.
And that brings us back to that ARM processor. Maybe it is a bigger deal--and a true game changer--because of where it's taking the Windows architecture--a move away from the traditional "Wintel" (Windows with Intel processor) computers we've known for so long.
The ARM microchip architecture is already being used in many tablets (or "slates" as Microsoft calls them). This is a big switch from the traditional x86 platform that Intel and AMD have typically created, and clearly Microsoft is seeing tablets as the future. Intel's x86 architecture, which has been around for about 20 years, will still support old and new Windows devices, but it looks like Microsoft is trying to think outside of the Wintel box--and for good reason.
This year so far, Windows 7's entry into the tablet market has gone from slow to a practical standstill. The company is looking at the future. Where this could get interesting is that Windows 8 will support the functionality of a tablet, including a touch-based interface and more evolved graphics-based menus, both in mobile and desktop forms.
Could this transform the traditional desktop into a tablet-like device with new, touchscreen-capable monitors? That's a possibility, but Microsoft is more likely thinking of software upgrades than hardware. This is because Windows 7 still has yet to reach the mass adoption of its predecessors (regardless of whose idea it was, if you believe the commercials). It could be that consumer confidence in Windows is broken after Vista, but most Windows XP computers still do everything a business needs--and those sticking with XP are in good company.
According to Consumer Reports, 54 percent of Windows computers are still running Windows XP, which is now 10 years old, while 11 percent are Windows Vista. Yet, don't expect Microsoft to rush Windows 8 to market this year. While anything is possible, it is more likely that Windows 8 will arrive in 2012, according to multiple analysts' predictions.
If true, this will be an important step for the Windows brand, and also for Microsoft as a company as its touch-enabled products have been historical flops. If the Windows 8 tablet UI manages to excite the market, it could signal a stronger future for the company in a now intensely profitable sector of the market.
It could also ignite Microsoft's now famously underperforming stock.
The touch features that Windows 8 is supposed to contain are some of the most anticipated parts of the operating system. Windows 7, despite being the best version (in TNWmicrosoft's opinion) of Windows for use with a keyboard and mouse, is as weak as previous editions of Windows in terms of tablet/touch use; Windows 7 is no good with your fingers, period.
However, if Microsoft shows off its tablet and touch future and the market shrugs, yawns, or laughs, it could see its market value slump even further.
The tablet market is hyper-competitive, with various OEMs pushing Android tablets with all their might against the seemingly impregnable iPad. If Microsoft is hoping to beat back the iPad in the consumer space, elegance will be a must. The D9 conference is in roughly one week from today, so we will know shortly enough if Windows 8 is prepared to drop the curtain, or not.
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