Microsoft is working on streamlining the Windows 8 upgrade process, as part of its bid to create a supple next-generation operating system.
Microsoft will offer Windows 8
upgrade as an online purchase and install, a fairly radical change from the
company's traditional model of boxed software and discs.
"Buying boxed software is quickly
becoming the exception rather than the rule," Christa St. Pierre, a member of
the Windows Setup and Deployment team, wrote in a Nov. 21 posting on
Microsoft's official "Building Windows 8" blog,
"with more and more software being purchased online as broadband penetration
increases and large-size media downloads become more common."
Windows 8 users, she added, will
have the option of starting their operating-system setup online: "We actually
-pre-key' the setup image that is downloaded to a unique user, which means that
you don't have to type in the 25-digit product key when you install."
Microsoft has experimented with
downloading Windows before-as well as some alternative methods for loading
Windows onto a PC. In order to give netbook users without a DVD drive the
ability to run Windows 7, the company issued a Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool
(WUDT), capable of installing the operating system via USB device. That
initiative ran into a bit of controversy in November 2009, when Microsoft was
forced to yank the tool from its online Microsoft Store after allegations that
the program incorporated code from the GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project,
Unlike with Windows 7, where the
upgrade process often involved multiple apps or features (including Upgrade
Advisor, Setup and Windows Easy Transfer) and a trip to the local box store, Microsoft is concentrating on streamlining
the Windows 8 upgrade into what St. Pierre described as "one fast and fluid
That new setup experience includes a
PC scan to determine compatibility ("If an application or device ran on Windows
7, it should run on Windows 8, too"), followed by the actual Windows 8
download. After that, the user will then have a choice to continue
installation, or else install the operating system on another partition.
Those upgrading from Windows 7 will
have the ability to keep their applications, Windows settings and user
accounts and files. Those with Windows Vista can port over their Windows
settings, along with their user accounts and files. Windows XP users will only
have the option of carrying user accounts and files into Windows 8.
Microsoft has offered a steady
stream of updates about Windows 8 over the past few months. Most recently, the
"Building Windows 8" blog detailed the Windows team's efforts to refine Windows
Update to prove less annoying to those users who hate to constantly restart.
In a bid to capture the tablet
market, Windows 8 offers a "Metro" interface with touch-optimized,
app-connected tiles, paired to a more traditional desktop interface. Users have
the ability to flip seamlessly between the two. By virtue of that bifurcated
system, Microsoft hopes to challenge the iPad and other competitors in the
tablet arena, while also appealing to the base of current users who don't
necessarily want radical change.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.