With all of the misleading hype about Windows 7, very few writers and tech nuts (like me!) seem to be contemplating Windows 8. However, I think they have put more thought into the OS-after-next than they realize. Allow me to illuminate and share some possible guesses about an operating system that, while being planned, is still at least four years off down the road:
- Windows 8 will make heavy use of virtualizing technology. Backwards-compatibility cruft will be ported to a separate subsystem (Mac’s Classic, anyone?), possibly including .NET technologies.
- Most, if not all, of the kernel’s APIs will be managed. Almost all necessary functionality will be in managed code, including low-level kernel access.
- While most current Vista drivers should work through the compatibility layer, most hardware will use a radically newer driver technology.
- The desktop will have changed massively; the Startbar as we know it will be gone, and the desktop itself will be more portal-like, possibly similar, though much more powerful, than KDE’s Plasma.
- Touchscreen and voice technology will be incredibly easy to use. The mouse, and possibly the keyboard, will be merely options instead of necessities.
- The concept of “this is my machine” will be harder to sympathize with: user switching, storing settings and applications remotely, etc. will allow desktop on demand (-r).
- True, modular components will emerge with Windows 8. A trim, stripped-down system will emerge, possibly utilizing improvements from the experimental WinMin project.
- Windows 8 will run on stripped-down hardware. Current XP machines should be able to run it, though possibly with some feature loss.
- Finally, multimedia as we know it will be gone. The computer will be a portal to an amazing world, be it gaming, movie-watching, or simply listening to music. The poor teenagers of those days… homework will never get done!
While these are merely speculative musings, I firmly believe that some, if not most, if not all of these improvements will make it into Windows 8, though I doubt we will see them in Windows 7. Windows 8 will be the defining OS from Microsoft. It will be the OS that makes Apple afraid; Mac fans will begin to (almost… they’d never admit to it) look wistfully at our PCs, wishing that their operating system had the same functionality.