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|Part of the Microsoft Windows family|
Windows 8.1 Start screen
|Initial release||August 1, 2012info][|
|October 26, 2012info][|
|8.1 (v6.3.9600) (October 17, 2013info]) [|
|Source model||Closed source and Shared source|
|License||Trialware, physical, Microsoft Software Assurance, MSDN subscription, DreamSpark|
|Update method||Windows Update, Windows Store|
|Platform support||IA-32, x64, ARMv7|
|Preceded by||Windows 7 (2009)|
|Part of the Microsoft Windows family|
Windows 8.1 Start screen
|Initial release||August 1, 2012info][|
|October 26, 2012info][|
|8.1 (v6.3.9600) (October 17, 2013info]) [|
|Source model||Closed source and Shared source|
|License||Trialware, physical, Microsoft Software Assurance, MSDN subscription, DreamSpark|
|Update method||Windows Update, Windows Store|
|Platform support||IA-32, x64, ARMv7|
|Preceded by||Windows 7 (2009)|
|Part of a series on|
Windows 8 is a personal computer operating system developed by Microsoft as part of Windows NT family of operating systems. Development of Windows 8 started before the release of its predecessor, Windows 7, in 2009. It was announced at CES 2011, and followed by the release of three pre-release versions from September 2011 to May 2012. The operating system was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012, and was released for general availability on October 26, 2012.
Windows 8 introduced major changes to the operating system's platform and user interface to improve its user experience on tablets, where Windows was now competing with mobile operating systems, including Android and iOS. In particular, these changes included a touch-optimized Windows shell based on Microsoft's "Metro" design language, the Start screen (which displays programs and dynamically updated content on a grid of tiles), a new platform for developing apps with an emphasis on touchscreen input, integration with online services (including the ability to sync apps and settings between devices), and Windows Store, an online store for downloading and purchasing new software. Windows 8 added support for USB 3.0, Advanced Format hard drives, near field communications, and cloud computing. Additional security features were introduced, such as built-in antivirus software, integration with Microsoft SmartScreen phishing filtering service and support for UEFI Secure Boot on supported devices with UEFI firmware, to prevent malware from infecting the boot process.
Windows 8 was released to mixed reception. Although reaction towards its performance improvements, security enhancements, and improved support for touchscreen devices was positive, the new user interface of the operating system was widely criticized for being potentially confusing and difficult to learn (especially when used with a keyboard and mouse instead of a touchscreen). Despite these shortcomings, 60 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold through January 2013, a number which included both upgrades and sales to OEMs for new PCs.
On October 17, 2013, Microsoft released the first major update to the operating system, Windows 8.1. The update addresses some aspects of Windows 8 that were criticized by reviewers and early adopters and incorporates additional improvements to various aspects of the operating system.
Windows 8 development started before Windows 7 had shipped in 2009. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2011, it was announced that the next version of Windows would add support for ARM system-on-chips alongside the existing x86 processors produced by vendors, especially AMD and Intel. Windows division president Steven Sinofsky demonstrated an early build of the port on prototype devices, while Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the company's goal for Windows to be "be everywhere on every kind of device without compromise." Details also began to surface about a new application framework for Windows 8 codenamed "Jupiter", which would be used to make "immersive" applications using XAML (similarly to Windows Phone and Silverlight) that could be distributed via a new packaging system and a rumored application store.
Three milestone releases of Windows 8 leaked to the general public. Milestone 1, Build 7850, was leaked on April 12, 2011. It was the first build where the text of a window was written centered instead of aligned to the left. It was also probably the first appearance of the Metro-style font, and its wallpaper had the text shhh... let's not leak our hard work. However, its detailed build number reveals that the build was created on September 22, 2010. The leaked copy edition was Enterprise edition. The OS still reads as "Windows 7". Milestone 2, Build 7955, was leaked on April 25, 2011. The traditional Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) was replaced by a new Black screen, although this was later scrapped. This build introduced a new ribbon in Windows Explorer. Build 7959, with minor changes but the first 64-bit version, was leaked on May 1, 2011. The "Windows 7" logo was temporarily replaced with text displaying "Microsoft Confidential". On June 17, 2011, build 7989 64-bit edition was leaked. It introduced a new boot screen featuring the same fish as the default Windows 7 Beta wallpaper, which was later scrapped, and the circling dots as featured in the final (although the final version comes with smaller circling dots throbber). It also had the text Welcome below them, although this was also scrapped.
The "Building Windows 8" blog launched on August 15, 2011, featuring details surrounding Windows 8's features and its development process.
Microsoft unveiled more Windows 8 features and improvements on the first day of the Build Conference on September 13, 2011. Microsoft released the first public beta build of Windows 8, Windows Developer Preview (build 8102) at the event. A Samsung tablet running the build was also distributed to all attendees of the conference.
The build was released for download later in the day in standard 32-bit and 64-bit versions, plus a special 64-bit version for developers. This version included SDKs and developer tools (Visual Studio Express and Expression Blend) for developing applications for Windows 8's new interface. The Windows Store was announced during the presentation, but was not available in this build. According to Microsoft, there were about 535,000 downloads of the developer preview within the first 12 hours of its release. Originally set to expire on March 11, 2012, in February 2012 the Developer Preview's expiry date was changed to January 15, 2013.
On February 19, 2012, Microsoft unveiled a new logo to be adopted for Windows 8. Designed by Pentagram partner Paula Scher, the Windows logo was changed to resemble a set of four window panes. Additionally, the entire logo is now rendered in a single solid color.
On February 29, 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8 Consumer Preview, the beta version of Windows 8, build 8250. For the first time since Windows 95, the Start button is no longer present on the taskbar (until brought back with the Windows 8.1 update without the associated Start menu), though the Start screen is still triggered by clicking the bottom-left corner of the screen and by clicking Start on the charms. Windows president Steven Sinofsky said more than 100,000 changes had been made since the developer version went public. The day after its release, Windows 8 Consumer Preview had been downloaded over one million times. Like the Developer Preview, the Consumer Preview expired on January 15, 2013.
Many other builds were released until the Japan's Developers Day conference, when Steven Sinofsky announced that Windows 8 Release Preview (build 8400) would be released during the first week of June. On May 28, 2012, Windows 8 Release Preview (Standard Simplified Chinese x64 edition, not China-specific version, build 8400) was leaked online on various Chinese and BitTorrent websites. On May 31, 2012, Windows 8 Release Preview was released to the public by Microsoft.
Major items in the Release Preview included the addition of Sports, Travel, and News apps, along with an integrated version of Adobe Flash Player in Internet Explorer. Like the Developer Preview and the Consumer Preview, the release preview expired on January 15, 2013.
On August 1, 2012, Windows 8 (build 9200) was released to manufacturing with the build number 6.2.9200.16384 . Microsoft planned to hold a launch event on October 25, 2012 and release Windows 8 for general availability on the next day. However, only a day after its release to manufacturing, a copy of the final version of Windows 8 Enterprise N (a version for European markets lacking bundled media players to comply with a court ruling) leaked online, followed by leaks of the final versions of Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise a few days later. On August 15, 2012, Windows 8 was made available to download for MSDN and TechNet subscribers. Windows 8 was made available to Software Assurance customers on August 16, 2012. Windows 8 was made available for students with a DreamSpark Premium subscription on August 22, 2012, earlier than advertised.
Relatively few changes were made from the Release Preview to the final version; these included updated versions of its pre-loaded apps, the renaming of Windows Explorer to File Explorer, the replacement of the Aero Glass theme from Windows Vista and 7 with a new flat and solid-colored theme, and the addition of new background options for the Start screen, lock screen, and desktop. Prior to its general availability on October 26, 2012, updates were released for some of Windows 8's bundled apps, and a "General Availability Cumulative Update" (which included fixes to improve performance, compatibility, and battery life) was released on Tuesday, October 9, 2012. Microsoft indicated that due to improvements to its testing infrastructure, general improvements of this nature are to be released more frequently through Windows Update instead of being relegated to OEMs and service packs only.
Microsoft began an advertising campaign centered around Windows 8 and its Surface tablet in October 2012, starting with its first television advertisement premiering on October 14, 2012. Microsoft's advertising budget of US$1.5–1.8 billion was significantly larger than the US$200 million campaign used to promote Windows 95. As part of its campaign, Microsoft set up 34 pop-up stores inside malls (primarily focusing on Surface), provided training for retail employees in partnership with Intel, and collaborated with the electronics store chain Best Buy to design expanded spaces to showcase devices. In an effort to make retail displays of Windows 8 devices more "personal", Microsoft also developed a character known in English-speaking markets as "Allison Brown", whose fictional profile (including personal photos, contacts, and emails) is also featured on demonstration units of Windows 8 devices.
In May 2013, Microsoft launched a new television campaign for Windows 8 illustrating the capabilities and pricing of Windows 8 tablets in comparison to the iPad, which featured the voice of Siri remarking on the iPad's limitations in a parody of Apple's "Get a Mac" advertisements. On June 12, 2013 during game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, Microsoft premiered the first ad in its "Windows Everywhere" campaign, which promoted Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and the company's suite of online services as an interconnected platform. In late-September 2013, Microsoft premiered another ad which focused on the changes of Windows 8.1.
New features and functionality in Windows 8 include a faster startup through UEFI integration and the new "Hybrid Boot" mode (which hibernates the Windows kernel on shutdown to speed up the subsequent boot), a new lock screen with a clock and notifications, and the ability for enterprise users to create live USB versions of Windows (known as Windows To Go). Windows 8 also adds native support for USB 3.0 devices, which allow for faster data transfers and improved power management with compatible devices, and hard disk 4Kn Advanced Format support, as well as support for near field communication to facilitate sharing and communication between devices.
Windows Explorer, which has been renamed File Explorer, now includes a ribbon in place of the command bar. File operation dialog boxes have been updated to provide more detailed statistics, the ability to pause file transfers, and improvements in the ability to manage conflicts when copying files. A new "File History" function allows incremental revisions of files to be backed up to and restored from a secondary storage device, while Storage Spaces allows users to combine different sized hard disks into virtual drives and specify mirroring, parity, or no redundancy on a folder-by-folder basis.
Task Manager has been redesigned, including a new processes tab with the option to display fewer or more details of running applications and background processes, a heat map using different colors indicating the level of resource usage, network and disk counters, grouping by process type (e.g. applications, background processes and Windows processes), friendly names for processes and a new option which allows users to search the web to find information about obscure processes. Additionally, the Blue Screen of Death has been updated with a simpler and modern design with less technical information displayed.
New security features in Windows 8 include two new authentication methods tailored towards touchscreens (PINs and picture passwords), the addition of antivirus capabilities to Windows Defender (bringing it in parity with Microsoft Security Essentials) SmartScreen filtering integrated into Windows, and support for the "Secure Boot" functionality on UEFI systems to protect against malware infecting the boot process. Family Safety offers Parental controls, which allows parents to monitor and manage their children's activities on a device with activity reports and safety controls. Windows 8 also provides integrated system recovery through the new "Refresh" and "Reset" functions, including system recovery from USB drive. Windows 8's first security patches would be released on November 13, 2012; it would contain three fixes deemed "critical" by the company.
Windows 8 provides heavier integration with online services from Microsoft and others. A user can now log in to Windows with a Microsoft account, formally known as a Windows Live ID, which can be used to access services and synchronize applications and settings between devices. Windows 8 also ships with a client app for Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service, which also allows apps to save files directly to SkyDrive. A SkyDrive client for the desktop and File Explorer is not included in Windows 8, and must be downloaded separately. Bundled multimedia apps are provided under the Xbox brand, including Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and the Xbox SmartGlass companion for use with an Xbox 360 console. Games can integrate into an Xbox Live hub app, which also allows users to view their profile and gamerscore. Other bundled apps provide the ability to link Flickr and Facebook.
Internet Explorer 10 is included as both a desktop program and a touch-optimized app, and includes increased support for HTML5, CSS3, and hardware acceleration. The Internet Explorer app does not support plugins or ActiveX components, but includes a version of Adobe Flash Player that is optimized for touch and low power usage. Initially, Adobe Flash would only work on sites included on a "Compatibility View" whitelist; however, after feedback from users and additional compatibility tests, an update in March 2013 changed this behavior to use a smaller blacklist of sites with known compatibility issues instead, allowing Flash to be used on most sites by default. The desktop version does not contain these limitations.
Windows 8 also incorporates improved support for mobile broadband; the operating system can now detect the insertion of a SIM card and automatically configure connection settings (including APNs and carrier branding), track and reduce bandwidth use on metered networks. Windows 8 also adds an integrated airplane mode setting to globally disable all wireless connectivity as well. Carriers can also offer account management systems through Windows Store apps, which can be automatically installed as a part of the connection process and offer usage statistics on their respective tile.
Windows 8 introduces a new style of application, Windows Store apps. According to Microsoft developer Jensen Harris, these apps are to be optimized for touchscreen environments and will be more specialized than current desktop applications. Apps can run either in a full-screen mode, or be snapped to the side of a screen. Apps can provide toast notifications on screen or animate their tiles on the Start screen with dynamic content. Apps can use "contracts"; a collection of hooks to provide common functionality that can integrate with other apps, including search and sharing. Apps can also provide integration with other services; for example, the People app can connect to a variety of different social networks and services (such as Facebook, Skype, and People service), while the Photos app can aggregate photos from services such as Facebook and Flickr.
Retail versions of Windows 8 will be able to install these apps only through Windows Store—a namesake distribution platform which offers both apps, and listings for desktop programs certified for comparability with Windows 8. A method to sideload apps from outside Windows Store is available to devices running Windows 8 Enterprise and joined to a domain; Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT devices that are not part of a domain can also sideload apps, but only after special product keys are obtained through volume licensing.
The term "Immersive app" had been used internally by Microsoft developers to refer to the apps prior to the first official presentation of Windows 8, after which they were referred to as "Metro-style apps" in reference to the Metro design language. The term was phased out in August 2012; a Microsoft spokesperson denied rumors that the change was related to a potential trademark issue, and stated that "Metro" was only a codename that would be replaced prior to Windows 8's release. Following these reports, the terms "Modern UI-style apps", "Windows 8-style apps" and "Windows Store apps" began to be used by various Microsoft documents and material to refer to the new apps. In an interview on September 12, 2012, Soma Somasegar (vice president of Microsoft's development software division) confirmed that "Windows Store apps" would be the official term for the apps.
Exceptions to the restrictions faced by Windows Store apps are given to web browsers; the user's default browser can provide a "New experience enabled" (formerly "Metro-style enabled") version that runs within the Metro shell like other apps. Web browser apps are distributed alongside desktop web browsers, and also have access to functionality unavailable to other apps, such as being able to permanently run in the background, use multiple background processes, and use Windows API code instead of WinRT (allowing for code to be re-used with the desktop version, while still taking advantage of features available to Windows Store apps, such as charms).
The developers of both Chrome and Firefox committed to developing versions of their browsers to run in this environment; while Chrome's "Windows 8 mode" uses a full-screen version of the existing desktop interface, Firefox's Metro version (which was first made available on the "Aurora" release channel in September 2013) uses a touch-optimized interface inspired by the Android version of Firefox, and development versions of Chrome introduced a UI in October 2013 which mimics the desktop environment used by Chrome OS.
Windows 8 introduces significant changes to the operating system's user interface, many of which are aimed at improving its experience on tablet computers and other touchscreen devices. The new user interface is based on Microsoft's Metro design language, and uses a Start screen similar to that of Windows Phone as the primary means of launching applications. The Start screen displays a customizable array of tiles linking to various apps and desktop programs, some of which can display constantly updated information and content through "live tiles". As a form of multi-tasking, apps can be snapped to the side of a screen. Alongside the traditional Control Panel, a new simplified and touch-optimized settings app known as "PC Settings" is used for basic configuration and user settings. It does not include many of the advanced options still accessible from the normal Control Panel.
A vertical toolbar known as the charms (accessed by swiping from the right edge of a touchscreen, or pointing the cursor at hotspots in the right corners of a screen) provides access to system and app-related functions, such as search, sharing, device management, settings, and a Start button. The traditional desktop environment for running desktop applications is accessed via a tile on the Start screen. The Start button on the taskbar from previous versions of Windows has been converted into a hotspot in the lower-left corner of the screen, which displays a large tooltip displaying a thumbnail of the Start screen. Swiping from the left edge of a touchscreen or clicking in the top-left corner of the screen allows one to switch between apps and Desktop. Pointing the cursor in the top-left corner of the screen and moving down reveals a thumbnail list of active apps. Aside from the removal of the Start button and the replacement of the Aero Glass theme with a flatter and solid-colored design, the desktop interface on Windows 8 is similar to that of Windows 7.
Windows 8 supports a feature of the UEFI specification known as "Secure boot", which uses a public-key infrastructure to verify the integrity of the operating system and prevent unauthorized programs such as bootkits from infecting the device.
Microsoft faced criticism (particularly from free software supporters) for mandating that devices receiving its optional certification for Windows 8 have secure boot enabled by default using a key provided by Microsoft. Concerns were raised that secure boot could prevent or hinder the use of alternate operating systems such as Linux. In response to the criticism, Microsoft developer Tony Mangefeste stated that "At the end of the day, the customer is in control of their PC. Microsoft's philosophy is to provide customers with the best experience first, and allow them to make decisions themselves."
Microsoft's certification requirements eventually revealed that UEFI firmware on x86 systems must allow users to re-configure or turn off secure boot, but that this must not be possible on ARM-based systems (Windows RT). Microsoft faced further criticism for its decision to restrict Windows RT devices by using this functionality. Tom Warren, in an article on The Verge, said that other smartphones and tablets are typically sold in a locked-down state. No mandate is made regarding the installation of third-party certificates that would enable running alternative programs.
Several notable features have been removed in Windows 8, beginning with the traditional Start menu. Support for playing DVD-Video has been removed from Windows Media Player due to the cost of licensing the necessary decoders (especially for devices which do not include optical disc drives at all) and the prevalence of streaming services such as Netflix. For the same reasons, Windows Media Center is not included by default on Windows 8, but Windows Media Center and DVD playback support can be purchased in the "Pro Pack" (which upgrades the system to Windows 8 Pro) or "Media Center Pack" add-on for Windows 8 Pro. As with prior versions, third-party DVD player software can still be used to enable DVD playback.
Backup and Restore, the backup component of Windows, is deprecated. It still ships with Windows 8 and continues to work on preset schedules, but is pushed to the background and can only be accessed through a Control Panel applet called "Windows 7 File Recovery".:76 Shadow Copy, a component of Windows Explorer that once saved previous versions of changed files, no longer protects local files and folders. It can only access previous versions of shared files stored on a Windows Server computer.:74 The subsystem on which these components worked, however, is still available for other software to use.:74
The minimum system requirements for Windows 8 are slightly higher than those of Windows 7. The CPU must support the Physical Address Extension (PAE), NX bit, and SSE2. Windows Store apps require a screen resolution of 1024×768 or higher to run; a resolution of 1366×768 or higher is required to use the snap functionality. To receive certification, Microsoft requires candidate x86 systems to resume from standby in 2 seconds or less.
|Processor||1 GHz clock rate|
IA-32 or x64 architecture
Support for PAE, NX and SSE2
Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) support for Hyper-V
|Memory (RAM)||IA-32 edition: 1 GB|
x64 edition: 2 GB
|Graphics Card||DirectX 9 graphics device|
WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
|DirectX 10 graphics device|
|Display screen||1024×768 pixels||1366×768 pixels|
|Input device||Keyboard and mouse||A multi-touch display screen|
|Hard disk space||IA-32 edition: 16 GB|
x64 edition: 20 GB
|Other||N/A||USB 3.0 port|
UEFI v2.3.1 Errata B with Microsoft Windows Certification Authority in its database
Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
Microsoft's Connected Standby specification, which hardware vendors may optionally comply with, sets new power consumption requirements that extend above the above minimum specifications. Included in this standard are a number of security-specific requirements designed to improve physical security, notably against Cold Boot Attacks.
Microsoft released minimum hardware requirements for new tablet and convertible devices certified for Windows 8, and defined a convertible form factor as a standalone device that combines the PC, display and rechargeable power source with a mechanically attached keyboard and pointing device in a single chassis. A convertible can be transformed into a tablet where the attached input devices are hidden or removed leaving the display as the only input mechanism. On March 12, 2013, Microsoft amended its certification requirements to only require that screens on tablets have a minimum resolution of 1024×768 (down from the previous 1366×768). The amended requirement is intended to allow "greater design flexibility" for future products.
|Graphics card||DirectX 10 graphics device with WDDM 1.2 or higher driver|
|Storage||10 GB free space, after the out-of-box experience completes|
|Standard buttons||'Power', 'Rotation lock', 'Windows Key', 'Volume-up', 'Volume-down'|
|Screen||Touch screen supporting a minimum of 5-point digitizers and resolution of at least 1024×768. The physical dimensions of the display panel must match the aspect ratio of the native resolution. The native resolution of the panel can be greater than 1024 (horizontally) and 768 (vertically). Minimum native color depth is 32-bits. If the display is under 1366×768, disclaimers must be included in documentation to notify users that the Snap function is not available.|
|Ambient light sensor||1–30 klux capable with dynamic range of 5–60K; compliant with ACPI 3.0b|
|Accelerometer||3 axes with data rates at or above 50 Hz|
|USB 2.0||At least one controller and exposed port.|
|Connect||Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE (low energy)|
|Other||Speaker, microphone, magnetometer and gyroscope. |
If a mobile broadband device is integrated into a tablet or convertible system, then an assisted GPS radio is required. Devices supporting near field communication need to have visual marks to help users locate and use the proximity technology. The new button combination for Ctrl + Alt + Del is Windows Key + Power.
Updated certification requirements will be implemented to coincide with Windows 8.1. In 2014, all certified devices with integrated displays must contain a 720p webcam and higher quality speakers and microphones, while all certified devices that support Wi-Fi must support Bluetooth as well. In 2015, all certified devices must contain Trusted Platform Module 2.0 chips.
Windows 8 is available in four editions: one simply named Windows 8 is intended for mainstream consumers. Windows 8 Pro contains additional features aimed towards power users and professional environments. Windows 8 Enterprise contains additional features aimed towards business environments, and is only available through volume licensing. Windows RT is only available pre-loaded on new ARM-based devices built specifically for the OS.
Windows Media Center is not included by default in any edition of Windows 8, but is available for purchase as an add-on for Windows 8 Pro, or as part of a "Pro Pack" upgrade for the basic version of Windows 8 which also includes the Pro upgrade. The Windows Media Center add-on was offered for free until January 31, 2013.
Users of previous versions of Windows can purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro online (using a download that can be optionally made into DVD or USB install media), or through boxed copies at retail on DVD. Microsoft offered Windows 8 Pro upgrades at a discounted price of US$39.99 online, or $69.99 for retail box DVD from its launch until January 31, 2013; afterward the Windows 8 price has been $119.99 and the Pro price $199.99. The "Full" and "OEM" SKUs of Windows (which can be installed on a computer with no existing operating system) were initially replaced by a specialized "System Builder" SKU, intended to be used by original equipment manufacturers and hobbyists building their own systems. Aside from the "System Builder" version, all retail copies of Windows 8 could only be used for upgrades. After its release, new retail copies were made available with the Windows 8.1 update included. Retail copies of Windows 8.1 are "Full" licenses instead of upgrade-only licenses, which Microsoft said would offer more flexibility for consumers. Pricing for these new copies remain identical.
Microsoft also offered an upgrade program for those purchasing new PCs pre-loaded with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013—in which users could digitally purchase a Windows 8 Pro upgrade for US$14.99. Several PC manufacturers have offered rebates and refunds on Windows 8 upgrades obtained through the program on select models, such as Hewlett-Packard (in the U.S. and Canada on select models), and Acer (in Europe on selected Ultrabook models).
The three desktop editions of Windows 8 support 32-bit and 64-bit architectures; retail copies of Windows 8 include install DVDs for both architectures, while the online installer automatically installs the version corresponding with the architecture of the system's existing Windows installation. The 32-bit version runs on CPUs compatible with x86 architecture 3rd generation (known as IA-32) or newer, and can run 32-bit and 16-bit applications, although 16-bit support must be enabled first. (16-bit applications are developed for CPUs compatible with x86 2nd generation, first conceived in 1978. Microsoft started moving away from this architecture since Windows 95.)
The 64-bit version runs on CPUs compatible with x86 8th generation (known as x86-64, or x64) or newer, and can run 32-bit and 64-bit programs. 32-bit programs and operating system are restricted to supporting only 4 gigabytes of memory while 64-bit systems can theoretically support 2048 gigabytes of memory. 64-bit operating systems require a different set of device drivers than those of 32-bit operating systems.
Windows RT, the only edition of Windows 8 for systems with ARM processors, only supports applications included with the system (such as a special version of Office 2013), supplied through Windows Update, or Windows Store apps, to ensure that the system only runs applications that are optimized for the architecture. Windows RT does not support running IA-32 or x64 applications. Windows Store apps can either support both the x86 and ARM architectures, or compiled to support a specific architecture.
Reviews of the various editions of Windows 8 have been mixed. The Verge said that although Windows 8's emphasis on touch computing was significant and risked alienating desktop users, a "tablet PC with Windows 8 makes an iPad feel immediately out of date" due to the capabilities of the operating system's hybrid model and increased focus on cloud services. In contrast, an ExtremeTech article said it was Microsoft "flailing" and a review in PC Magazine condemned the Metro Interface. Some of the included apps in Windows 8 were considered to be basic and lacking in functionality, but the Xbox apps were praised for their promotion of a multi-platform entertainment experience. Other improvements and features (such as File History, Storage Spaces, and the updated Task Manager) were also regarded as positive changes. Peter Bright of Ars Technica wrote that while its user interface changes may overshadow them, Windows 8's improved performance, updated file manager, new storage functionality, expanded security features, and updated Task Manager were still positive improvements for the operating system. Bright also said that Windows 8's duality towards tablets and traditional PCs was an "extremely ambitious" aspect of the platform as well, but criticized Microsoft for emulating Apple's model of a closed distribution platform when implementing the Windows Store.
The interface of Windows 8 has been the subject of mixed reaction. Bright wrote that its system of hot corners and edge swiping "wasn't very obvious" due to the lack of instructions provided by the operating system on the functions accessed through the user interface, even by the video tutorial added on the RTM release (which only instructed users to point at corners of the screen or swipe from its sides). Despite this "stumbling block", Bright said that Windows 8's interface worked well in some places, but began to feel incoherent when switching between the "Metro" and desktop environments, sometimes through inconsistent means. Tom Warren of The Verge wrote that the new interface was "as stunning as it is surprising", contributing to an "incredibly personal" experience once it is customized by the user, but had a steep learning curve, and was awkward to use with a keyboard and mouse. He noted that while forcing all users to use the new touch-oriented interface was a risky move for Microsoft as a whole, it was necessary in order to push development of apps for the Windows Store. Others, such as Adrian Kingsley-Hughes from ZDNet, considered the interface to be "clumsy and impractical" due to its inconsistent design (going as far as considering it "two operating systems unceremoniously bolted together"), and concluded that "Windows 8 wasn't born out of a need or demand; it was born out of a desire on Microsoft's part to exert its will on the PC industry and decide to shape it in a direction—touch and tablets -- that allows it to compete against, and remain relevant in the face of Apple's iPad."
Several notable video game developers criticized Microsoft for making its Windows Store a closed platform subject to its own regulations, as it conflicted with their view of the PC as an open platform. Markus "Notch" Persson (creator of the popular indie game Minecraft), Gabe Newell (co-founder of Valve Corporation and developer of software distribution platform Steam), and Rob Pardo from Activision Blizzard voiced concern about the closed nature of the Windows Store. However, Tom Warren of The Verge stated that Microsoft's addition of the Store was simply responding to the success of both Apple and Google in pursuing the "curated application store approach."
In 2013, Frank X. Shaw, a Microsoft corporate vice president, said that while many of the negative reviews were extreme, it was a "good thing" that Microsoft was "listening to feedback and improving a product".
Microsoft says that 4 million users upgraded to Windows 8 over the weekend after its release, which CNET says was well below Microsoft's internal projections and have been described inside the company as disappointing.
On November 27, 2012, Microsoft announced that it has sold 40 million licenses of Windows 8 in the first month, surpassing the pace of Windows 7.
However, according to research firm NPD, sales of devices running Windows in the United States have declined 21 percent compared to the same time period in 2011. As the holiday shopping season wrapped up, Windows 8 sales continued to lag, even as Apple reported brisk sales. The market research firm IDC reported an overall drop in PC sales for the quarter, and said the drop may have been partly due to consumer reluctance to embrace the new features of the OS and poor support from OEM for these features. This capped the first year of declining PC sales to the Asia Pacific region, as consumers bought more mobile devices than Windows PCs.
Windows 8 surpassed Windows Vista in market share with a 5.1% usage rate according to numbers posted in July 2013 by Net Applications, with usage on a steady upward trajectory. However, intake of Windows 8 still lags behind that of Windows Vista and Windows 7 at the same point in their release cycles. Windows 8's tablet market share has also been growing steadily, with 7.4% of tablets running Windows in Q1 2013 according to Strategy Analytics, up from nothing just a year before. However, this was still well below Android and iOS, which posted 43.4% and 48.2% market share respectively, although both operating systems have been on the market much longer than Windows 8.
In March 2013, Microsoft also amended its certification requirements to allow tablets to use the 1024x768 resolution as a minimum; this change is expected to allow the production of certified Windows 8 tablets in smaller form factors—a market which is currently dominated by Android-based tablets. Despite the reaction of industry experts, Microsoft reported that they had sold 100 million licenses in the first six months. This matched sales of Windows 7 over a similar period. Many of these "sales" were shipments to channel warehouses which now need to be sold in order to make way for new shipments.
Windows 8.1 (codenamed "Blue"), the first major update to Windows 8 and RT, was officially announced by Microsoft on May 14, 2013. Following a presentation devoted to the update at Build Conference 2013, a public beta version of the update was released on June 26, 2013. Windows 8.1 was released to OEM hardware partners on August 27, 2013, and released publicly as a free download through Windows Store on October 17, 2013. Volume license customers and subscribers to MSDN Plus and TechNet Plus were initially unable to obtain the RTM version upon its release; a spokesperson stated that the change in policy was to allow Microsoft to work with OEMs "to ensure a quality experience at general availability." However, after criticism, Microsoft reversed its decision and released the RTM build on MSDN and TechNet on September 9, 2013.
Unlike previous Windows service packs, Windows 8.1 is obtained as a download through Windows Store for users of retail or OEM copies of Windows 8 and RT. Users of Windows 8 Enterprise edition, volume licensing customers and MSDN or TechNet subscribers must obtain Windows 8.1 as new installation media, and install it through the traditional Windows installation process. In any case, versions of Windows 8.1 distributed as ISO images do not accept Windows 8 product keys.
The 8.1 update contains a number of improvements throughout the operating system, many of which were intended to address criticism that Windows 8 faced from users and reviewers on launch. Functionality within the "Metro" shell and Windows Store apps is expanded on 8.1 with the ability to snap apps to use half the screen and use up to four apps on a screen at once depending on screen size. Additional customization options (such as expanded color choices, new tile sizes, new backgrounds, the ability to use the desktop wallpaper as its background, and the ability to default to the "All Apps" view) were also added to the Start screen. The PC Settings app was expanded to include access to more options previously exclusive to the desktop Control Panel, and Windows Store apps can now be updated automatically. To improve the usability of the desktop interface, a visible Start button with a new function, was restored to the taskbar, the desktop can be shown on login instead of the Start screen, and hot corners can now be disabled.
Updates were made to Windows' bundled apps (including Mail, SkyDrive, which now includes a local file manager and deeper OS integration, and Internet Explorer 11), while a number of additional stock apps were added, including Calculator, Sound Recorder, Reading List, Scan, and Help + Tips, which provides an interactive tutorial on how to use Windows. The desktop SkyDrive program has also been removed from Windows 8.1 owing to OS integration. In Windows 8.1 SkyDrive also loses its "fetch" functionality, meaning it cannot retrieve files from a Windows 8.1 computer remotely; a Microsoft FAQ states: "You can use a PC running Windows 8.1 to fetch files that are on another PC, but you can't fetch files that are on a PC running Windows 8.1, even if you install the SkyDrive desktop app on that PC." A Bing-based unified search system was also added, including full-screen "hero units" that can surface relevant multimedia content from various sources. Windows 8.1 adds support for a number of new and emerging technologies, such as 3D printing, NFC printing, Miracast media streaming, and Wi-Fi Direct printing.
Due to changes to improve its "security effectiveness," the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 no longer supports processors which do not implement the CPU instruction CMPXCHG16B (which the installer reports as a lack of support for "CompareExchange128"). A Microsoft spokesperson noted that the change primarily affects systems with older AMD 64-bit processors, and that "the number of affected processors are extremely small, since this instruction has been supported for greater than 10 years." Even if the system does have an otherwise compatible processor, the motherboard must also support the instruction—which can also cause the problem to occur on Intel processors in select cases. These changes do not affect the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1.
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