Microsoft is revealing a bit more about Windows 8 ahead of September’s BUILD conference, as part of what will be surely a long marketing campaign for the operating system.
In his second posting on the “Building Windows 8” blog, Windows and Windows Live division President Stephen Sinofsky offered a further drill-down into the engineering teams putting the operating system together. “We have about 35 feature teams in the Windows 8 organization,” he wrote. “Each feature team has anywhere from 25-40 developers, plus test and program management, all working together.”
He then provided a list of “features or areas” under construction by those teams. Many of them seemed obvious: “Graphics Platform,” “Hyper-V,” “Media Platform,” and so on.
Others were more ambiguous, including “Human Interaction Platform,” “Telemetry,” and “Windows Online.” In theory, the last could refer to some as-yet-unannounced cloud initiative, along the lines of the company’s Office 365 or Apple’s upcoming iCloud. And given Windows 8’s expected presence on a variety of hardware form-factors, including tablets, “Human Interaction Platform” could refer to touch-based input or other, non-keyboard methods of telling the operating system what you’ll want to do.
However, all this remains pure conjecture. Despite some early glimpses of the user interface, paired with Sinofsky’s rather lengthy postings, actual details of Windows 8’s elements remain scarce. We do know, thanks to Microsoft, that the operating system abandons the “traditional” Windows desktop model in favor of colorful, Windows Phone-style tiles.
“So much has changed since Windows 95-the last time Windows was significantly overhauled-when the -desktop’ metaphor was established,” Sinofsky wrote in the inaugural Aug. 15 posting. “Today, more than two out of three PCs are mobile (laptops, netbooks, notebooks, tablets, slates, convertibles, etc.). Nearly every PC is capable of wireless connectivity.”
According to the feature list, Windows 8 will also feature an App Store of some sort. That could directly counter Apple’s Mac App Store, which lets users download applications to their desktop instead of having to purchase boxed software. The presence of a Microsoft-branded App Store would also let Windows on tablets compete on equal footing against rivals such as the iPad (which offers access to Apple’s App Store) and Android devices (which include Android Marketplace).
Windows presence on tablets could give Microsoft a way to make up for the occasional slackness in the traditional PC market. Windows revenue declined a bit last quarter, for example, largely due to softness in the overall PC industry. But the other question is whether Windows 8, coming so soon after the bestselling Windows 7 (and with Windows XP a dwindling but significant presence), will find an audience hungering to upgrade to the newest thing out there.