Say Goodbye to Wintel? What Microsoft Windows 8 Could Be

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Don't get too comfortable with Windows 7. Microsoft is already hard at work on Windows 8 (and probably Windows 9, at the very least). While it's still only in the "rumor" stage, tidbits are spilling out as to what the upcoming operating system will offer. We already knew that it would support system-on-a-chip and mobile ARM processors, which could signal a new direction for PC development, but will these be true game changers?

At first glance--unless you're Intel--maybe not.

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 you thought that Windows 7 had too many versions, the word is that Windows 8 will arrive in at least four different flavors--but at least you'll have time to decide which one is right for you.

Peter Suciu writes about technology trends for small business, but has an appreciation for the Victorian Age when the telegraph was the information super highway. After living in New York City for 18 years, he now resides in more rural Michigan.

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