Windows 10: It may just be everything that Windows 8 should have been


A Verdict

Windows 10 is coming along very well – there are still some issues to be tackled, but this is shaping up to be one of Microsoft’s most popular releases yet.

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The revamped, customizable Start menu.Nate Ralph/CNET

Microsoft’s Windows 10 event gave us a deeper look at the next generation of its operating system. At once panacea and prescience, it’s a remedy for Windows 8’s identity-crisis that reworks Microsoft’s bold vision of creating a single, universal experience for all of our devices.

A new build of the Technical Preview arrived just a few days after Microsoft’s event, bringing with it a host of new features, including Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana. A Windows 10 build for Windows Phones is slated to arrive sometime in February. There was also some pretty good news for folks who are currently running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8 — upgrades to Windows 10 will be free for a year. There’s no word on pricing after that (or for folks still running Windows XP), but if Microsoft has its way, we will have all made the switch by then anyway.

A fresh start

Windows 8 was a bold re-imagining of Microsoft’s operating system, but the Start screen proved contentious. The colorful Live Tiles offer useful notifications and information, but they were designed with touchscreen devices in mind: much of the work we do in Windows involves keyboards, mice, and large displays chock-full of windows and apps. Windows 8’s Modern apps demand a full screen’s attention, oblivious of our need to multitask. The Windows 10 Start Menu gives us the best of both worlds.

Boot up a PC running the Windows 10, and you’ll be dropped off at the oh-so-familiar desktop. The taskbar and its icons sits on the bottom, and the recycle bin sits in the upper-left corner. It looks, at first blush, like Windows 8 all over again.

But press the Start button, and you’ll be greeted by the return of the Start menu. It’s a proper Start menu too, with your most frequently used apps are stacked in a column. Press the “All Apps” button and you’ll find the endless column of nested folders we’ve all been scrolling since Windows 95, though they’re now grouped alphabetically. Sitting alongside that column are Windows 8’s animated Live Tiles, endlessly serving up news-bites and social network updates.

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The Start Menu can be maximized to take up the entire screen.Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

The menu has evolved since the early builds. The Live Tiles can be arranged into separate groups, and those can be labeled (just like Windows 8). If you’ve got plenty of apps you’ll need to scroll to see them all: as of Build 9926 you can no longer drag and stretch the menu to different sizes. That’s rather disappointing, as I liked the flexibility of dragging my Start menu up to take up more of the screen — here’s hoping that’s a temporary change. You can also press the maximize button to get a full screen version of the Start menu.

What’s old is new again

Click or press the Live Tile shortcuts, and the Modern apps introduced in Windows 8 open as classic windowed apps. This is a welcome change, allowing us to sample the new aesthetic Microsoft is pushing for the next generation of Windows without sacrificing our entire display. You can now drag these Modern apps around, snap them to half of your display, or minimize and maximize them at will.

Windows 10 lets you work smarter, too. Click the Task view button, and you’ll get a quick glimpse of all of your open apps and windows. A black box running along the bottom of the display prompts to create a virtual desktop: that’s a sort of private island that keeps everything you open there as an independent workspace. You can, for example, create one desktop for all of the applications you use for work, another to browse gaming forums or sites like Reddit, and yet another for games or whatever you want. The virtual desktop feature alone tempts me to install this technical preview on my primary machine. Of course we’ve had virtual desktops on Linux and Mac machines for years (and on Windows, from third-party apps), but it’s nice to see Microsoft catching up here.

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Modern apps no longer take up the whole screen.Nate Ralph/CNET

In Windows 10, you can press Ctrl+Windows key to jump between desktops, triggering a slick little sliding animation that was added in an October update to the Technical Preview. You can also right-click an app when you’re in task view and select a specific desktop to move it to. It’s not completely there yet, however. I’d really like to be able to drag and drop open apps to different desktops instead of right-clicking all of the time. And being able to drag and drop to rearrange the virtual desktops I’ve created would be a huge boost to my productivity.

A step forward

We finally got a chance to see more of Windows 10’s real game-changing potential: this will be one operating system to rule them all. It’s all thanks to Contiuum, a feature that serves up a device-specific interface that’ll scale from desktops down to tablets. Consider a two-in-one convertible device like theSurface Pro 3: pop it off its keyboard base, and a little prompt will pop up asking if you’d like to switch to “tablet mode.” Press it, and the apps on your desktop will instantly transform into their full-screen, tablet incarnations — this includes traditional Windows desktop apps, too. You’ll be able to use all of the gestures you’re accustomed to on a Windows tablet, and can switch back to the desktop by popping the device back onto its keyboard, or by pressing the “tablet mode” toggle button in the Windows 10 Action Center.

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The Action Center, and the new Settings MenuScreenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

The Action Center showed up in the October update to the Windows Technical Preview, and it’s become a bit more useful. All of the notifications you receive are routed here, with the most recent events rising to the top. It can get a little cluttered — Dropbox is especially chatty — but you can turn off notifications with ease. There’s also a new Settings app, which attempts to corral all of the various things you can tweak into a single, searchable menu.

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Cortana is now available on Windows 10.Josh P. Miller/CNET

Speaking of search: you may have noticed the little search bar sitting next to the Start button. Click the search bar, or tap the microphone, or just say “Hey, Cortana” (once you’ve turned that feature on), and you’ll be greeted by Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant. She’s able to search for files on your PC, set reminders, and do more mundane things like tracking a flight or keeping an eye on the weather.

Cortana isn’t firing on all cylinders just yet — this is still an early preview — but the virtual assistant is an important part of Microsoft’s plan to bring Windows 10 to all devices, everywhere. As you use Cortana on your phone, and your tablet, and your PC, it’ll learn more about you and tuck relevant facts into a “Notebook.” You can duck into this list of preferences and tweak things to your liking (much like Google Now), while leaving some parameters off limits to preserve your privacy. As Cortana gets to know you, you’ll presumably find it more useful, and use it more often.

That last part is key. Cortana’s ability to parse natural language will only improve as millions of people (Microsoft hopes) start chatting with Cortana on their PCs, thanks to their free Windows 10 upgrade. This will improve the virtual assistant’s functionality, allowing “her” to handle increasingly complicated conversational queries, such as “Who is the President?”, “What is his wife’s name?” and “How old is he?” without tripping up.

Apps that run everywhere

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The Photos app lets you tweak images — or have it done automatically.Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

Apps are going to be an instrumental part of getting Windows 10 working everywhere — including on smartphones and devices like gaming consoles. To that end, Microsoft is trumpeting universal apps that’ll exist on PCs and mobile devices. The new Photos app scans your devices and OneDrive account for photos and arranges them into a giant collection. It’ll work on mobile devices too, though we’ll have to wait to try that for ourselves.

The app will also automatically enhance all of the photos it finds, wrangling red eye and sorting out exposure levels. The process is completely optional, and works on RAW files too — if you don’t like a change, you can undo it without affecting the original file. You can also use the Photos app to make edits of your own — it’s not going to replace something like Adobe Lightroom, but if you’re looking for a simple tool to manage your shots, you’ll do well here.

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The Xbox app will make it easy to keep tabs on your achievements.Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

Microsoft has also added an Xbox app. It doesn’t do all that much, at present: you’re be able to see what your friends are doing and send them messages, check out achievements, and look at game clips people have pre-recorded. Microsoft ultimately aims to bring the full Xbox Live experience to Windows 10 PCs, including allowing you to stream games from your Xbox One console directly to your PC — we’ll have to wait quite some time for htat functionality to be implemented.

We still haven’t seen much of Windows 10 on Windows Phones, but we did get a glimpse of universal apps like Mail, Calendar, and the new Photos app running on both phones and PCs. There will need to be allowances based on particular devices — a desktop without a camera has little need for a Camera app, for example. But this unified, universal experience eases a lot of work for developers trying to spread their app across as many platforms as possible, as well as opening up new opportunities.

Future-proofing

Windows 10 isn’t going to fix everything, but these changes to Windows 8’s most divisive elements has made a world of difference to the OS. And that’s crucial to Windows’ future, as Microsoft is still looking at the big picture: PCs are old news.

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Windows 10 will morph to fit the device it’s running on.Nate Ralph/CNET

Desktops and laptops still handle most of our work and play, but tablets and smartphones have long since stolen the limelight: future operating systems will need to work to bridge that gap. We’ve seen steps in this direction from Apple, with OS X Yosemite’s ability to hand off files and things like emails and calls from your phone or tablet. And some Android apps are making their way to Google’s Chrome OS, an interesting sign of where Google might be headed.

Microsoft’s vision of tomorrow’s ideal operating system is grander still. The goal is to offer a unified experience across devices of all shapes and sizes, and one that will morph to make sense: icons to tap and home screens when you’re on a phone or tablet, but windowed apps and nested folders when you’re armed with a keyboard and mouse. And then there’s Windows 10 on the Xbox One. We might not want to run Excel on our consoles (OK, I might), but the fact that Microsoft’s console and PCs will be able to share apps puts quite a bit of power in the hands of developers.

Windows 8 dreamed of dragging us into that future, but we kicked and screamed at the inefficiency of its one-size-fits-all approach. With Windows 10, Microsoft seems to be getting it right.

Excerpt: cnet.com

Microsoft Windows Rumors: ‘Project Threshold’ Release Date Coming In Spring 2015?


Microsoft
Microsoft logo Microsoft

According to a leaked internal email, Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) is planning a major update to all of its Windows operating systems. Codenamed “Threshold,” the update will further unify the Windows platform across PCs, mobile devices and the Xbox One video game console, and could be released in the spring of 2015.

The Xbox One OS, Windows 8.x OS and Windows Phone 8 OS already share many features and are built from a common Windows NT core, but ZDNet reports that Microsoft wants to make them even more similar with Threshold.

Threshold will focus on “high value activities” like Office, Bing and IT management programs and make these products the same across all platforms. Microsoft is reportedly developing a singular app store and tool sets designed to make it easier for developers to create applications for each Microsoft platform.

Threshold falls in line with CEO Steve Ballmer’s announcement in July of a corporate reorganization of Microsoft and a new company mission of “One Microsoft.”

It’s the second codename to come from the “Halo” video game series. Microsoft also borrowed the name “Cortana” from the Xbox franchise to be the codename for its Siri-like personal assistant program.

Microsoft has not confirmed Threshold, and will probably release another update first. Microsoft is rumored to be planning a release an update to Windows 8.1 and the new Windows Phone “Blue” operating system in the spring of 2014.

 

Windows 8.1: What you need to know (FAQ)


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

One year after the debut of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 is here. It feels significantly less dramatic, but Microsoft’s latest version of its PC operating system has some changes, and some requirements, all its own. If you’re a curious would-be adopter, or a diligent Windows 8 upgrader, read on for some answers to your questions.

What’s new?

 

Last year’s Windows 8 was a brand-new, somewhat jarring operating system aimed at making touch-screen devices, and Windows devices that could convert between touch and keyboard/mouse modes, easier to use.

Windows 8.1 is a series of subtle changes, a software patch of sorts to last year’s software. There are some differences, but most of them seem to exist to appeal to more-traditional PC users — those who want more of a return to the traditional Windows experience. The biggest changes are:

  • You can boot directly into Desktop mode instead of the tile-based app user interface
  • The long-lost Start button is back
  • You can snap more apps side-by-side for better multitasking
  • There’s also better cross-system search, along with search that ties into cloud-based SkyDrive storage

For the full rundown, read CNET’s review. Or, check out our list of the top new features you need to know in Windows 8.1.

 

What’s the different between Windows 8.1 and Windows RT?

 

Windows 8.1 is the “real” Windows OS that runs on PCs and tablets; it includes backward compatibility with most earlier Windows software — programs and games that were designed to run on Windows 7, Vista, and XP. By contrast, Windows RT is a stripped-down version of Windows 8.1 that does not deliver that backward compatibility. (The reason: RT machines run ARM chips rather than full Intel or AMD “x86” CPUs, allowing them longer battery life and cheaper prices.) Instead, Windows RT only runs the apps available in the Windows Store (which, confusingly, is available in both 8.1 and RT). Notably, however, Windows RT includes a free copy of Microsoft Office 2013, which has been designed to run on both versions of Windows.

While there were a handful of devices that ran RT in 2012, so far, the Microsoft Surface andSurface 2 tablets appear to be the only RT machines currently available. (Again, adding to the confusion: the Surface Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablets run full Windows 8.1.)

 

Do I need to buy a tablet to use Windows 8.1?

 

No, you can use any PC, as long as it fits the Windows 8.1 hardware requirements. Touch screens aren’t required. In fact, Windows 8.1 makes it easier: you can stay in “Desktop mode” and just use your PC in a way that (largely) bypasses the touch-friendly tile interface. Even those, should you encounter them, can be navigated with keyboard and mouse/touch pad, however.

Start button!

 

Is the Start button back?

Yes — sort of. The annoying absence of a Start button made easy-access navigation on Windows 8 a confusing chore, but it’s back — although it just provides a shortcut to the tile menu. However, right-clicking it brings up a contextual menu with additional options.

 

How do I get Windows 8.1, and what does it cost?

 

For existing Windows 8 users, Windows 8.1 is a free upgrade. Just go the app store if you’re a Windows 8 user, and start downloading.

If you’re coming from Windows 7 (or an even earlier version of Windows), it can be bought herefor $120, or $200 for the business-targeted pro version. For more step-by-step information, read our how-to guide.

 

What are the system requirements?

 

For the full rundown, click here. But here’s the bare-bones needs:

  • 1GHz or faster processor with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
  • 1GB of RAM for 32-bit computing, or 2GB for 64-bit
  • 16GB of hard-drive space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
  • A Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

 

What’s the ideal system to use with Windows 8.1?

 

Despite the return of the Start button, having a touch screen is still the preferred way to go with Windows 8.1. In the portable realm, look for a tablet (Sony Vaio Tap 11 or Microsoft Surface Pro 2), a convertible laptop (the upcoming Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga), or a touch-screen laptop (theSamsung Ativ Book 9 Plus).

In the desktop world, larger touch-screen all-in-one machines like the Dell XPS One 27 or Sony Vaio Tap 21 are ideal.

 

Should you upgrade to Windows 8.1?

 

My colleague Dan Ackerman said it best in his Windows 8.1 review. If you’re a regular PC user, I’ll repeat in his paraphrased words what you should do:

  • If you’re an existing Windows 8 user, the update is free and largely seamless, and adds some useful new tweaks and features. You should upgrade as soon as possible.
  • If you’re a Windows 7 user thinking of upgrading your legacy hardware, consider keeping with Windows 7 until it’s time for a new PC; those touch-optimized Windows 8 and 8.1 elements won’t do much for you anyway, and Windows 7 still works well with all sorts of applications.

 

Either way, you’ll probably have to get used to Windows 8 eventually, since it’s Microsoft’s PC operating system now. It’s really, however, more of a finishing touch for Windows 8-optimized machines.

The best way to get Windows 8.1? Wait to buy a new PC with Windows 8 or 8.1 installed: it’ll run the software better, and it won’t cost anything extra.

I’m moving on from Windows; what other alternatives are there?

 

 

Windows isn’t the only game in town: you can always opt for a Mac, a tablet (Android, iPad), or aChromebook. There are more choices than ever before; just realize that each of them has relative advantages and disadvantages, and none of them will run your legacy Windows software (unless you invest in a solution like Parallels for Mac).

 

HP warns consumers: Downgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 7 at your own risk, we won’t support you


Those who buy HP Windows 8 PCs and decide they want to downgrade to Windows 7 are in for a shock: Consumers will be on their own if there are Windows-related problems on the machines, and HP won’t offer support.

Update: After this post was written, HP has changed its policy on downgrades from Windows 8 to Windows 7. HP will now support Windows 7 on computers that have been downgraded from Windows 8. HP says:

 

Customers can downgrade to Windows 7 and  you will remain protected by HP product warranties.
However, HP has not tested all Windows 8 platforms for Windows 7 and we may not have your particular drivers available.

Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer first reported HP’s old policy, which can be found in a Windows 8 FAQ on HP’s Web site.

Downgrade rights lets customers revert to an earlier version of Windows at no cost. Typically, enterprises get downgrade right when they buy new machines. As for consumers, only those who buy Windows 8 Pro get downgrade rights.

HP says that if a consumer downgrades from Windows 8 to Windows 7, HP won’t support Windows on it, although it will still support the underlying hardware itself. The HP FAQ warns:

“HP does not recommend downgrading on any HP consumer desktop and notebook products. After October 26, 2012, HP consumer desktop and notebook products will ship only with Windows 8. Windows 7 will not be supported on these new platforms, and no drivers, apps, or Windows 7 content will be available through HP. If users choose to downgrade their HP consumer desktop or notebook system, HP will continue to support the hardware but if there is an issue where HP diagnostics are required OR it is determined that the loaded software or upgrade operating system is causing the issue, HP may suggest returning the system to the original Windows 8 OS that shipped with the computer.”

In other words, if you run into trouble on Windows 7 on the machines, you’re on your own.

Typically, downgrade rights aren’t much of an issue with Windows PCs. But Windows Vista caused so many problems that some users downgraded to XP. Windows 7 was well-received, though, and downgrading wasn’t an issue.

It’s too early to know whether Windows 8 will generate a backlash like Windows Vista did. But if buyers of HP Windows 8 Pro machines decide to downgrade to Windows 7, they’re on their own.

By 

 

How to test-drive Windows 8 for free in VirtualBox


Upgrading to a new operating system can be an intimidating undertaking that massively disrupts your daily workflow. And considering the dramatic interface changes introduced in Windows 8, you may not want to invest in Microsoft’s latest OS without first giving it a thorough shakedown.

Fortunately, there’s an easy, hassle-free way to test-drive Windows 8. Using a program called VirtualBox and the evaluation version of Windows 8 Enterprise, you can try out the new OS for free, without disturbing your current operating system. Read on—we’ll show you how.

Important considerations

For this project, you’ll need to use the evaluation version of Windows 8 Enterprise, which you can download directly from Microsoft at the MSDN Evaluation Center website. There are a few things you should know about the evaluation edition, but you might want to start the download now—at 3.4GB, it will take a while.

Wording on the download page identifies it as “Windows 8 evaluation for developers,” but anyone who has a Microsoft account (such as a free Hotmail or Live account) can download the software and try it out. The download link is at the very bottom of the page. Simply select the 32- or 64-bit version of the operating system, log in, and fill out a brief questionnaire. Just like that, you’re downloading Windows 8!

IMAGE: MICROSOFT
The Windows 8 logo.

Of course, Microsoft doesn’t give away Windows for free, and this evaluation version has a couple of major limitations. First, the trial period expires in 90 days—at which point the OS will automatically shut down after every 60 minutes of use.

Second, you can’t upgrade from the evaluation version of Windows 8 Enterprise to a full version of Windows 8. Instead, you have to uninstall it completely and start over with a non-evaluation version of the OS. Every app you’ve installed, and every file you’ve tinkered with, will be obliterated when the trial ends and you install another operating system. So back up your data! The bottom line is that you shouldn’t use the evaluation version of Windows 8 Enterprise as your main operating system, which is why we recommend installing it in a virtual machine.

On the plus side, Windows 8 Enterprise packs some nifty features that you won’t find in the vanilla version of Windows 8, including BitLocker encryption, Hyper-V virtualization, and the intriguing Windows to Go, which allows the OS to boot from removable storage. You also get IT-friendly tools such as BranchCache and AppLocker support. Though some of those tools are come with with Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise users can’t download the Pro version’s $10 Windows Media Center pack (sorry, CableCard lovers). Wikipedia has a handy chart comparing the features available for the different editions of Windows 8, including Windows RT.

While the Windows 8 ISO downloads, you should also download the latest version of VirtualBox for Windows. Run the installer, and choose the default settings for all of the install options. If you already have VirtualBox installed on your system, you can make sure that it’s current by clicking the Help menu at the top of the screen and selecting Check for Updates. Older versions don’t offer native support for Windows 8, and VirtualBox’s latest releases have greatly improved system usability while running Windows 8 on a virtual machine.

Set up your virtual PC

You’ll need to create a new virtual PC for your Windows 8 installation. Start by clicking theMachine menu at the top of VirtualBox and selecting New. Next you’ll walk through a couple of simple configuration menus that will define your virtual PC’s “hardware.”

The first step down the road to a Windows 8-based virtual PC is to select ‘New’ in VirtualBox’s Machine dropdown menu.

The first menu will ask you to give your virtual PC a name, and to choose the operating system you’ll be installing. Choose Windows 8, either ’32-bit’ or ’64-bit’, depending on the ISO that you downloaded earlier.

Next you must specify how much RAM to allocate to the virtual machine. To get good performance in the 64-bit version of Windows 8, Microsoft recommends having at least 2GB dedicated to it; we advise you to allocate at least 4GB, if possible. Bear in mind that VirtualBox will consume that memory while it’s running. If devoting that much memory to the virtual setup would cripple your physical PC, you may not be able to run Windows 8 smoothly—or you might do better to run the 32-bit version of Windows 8, which requires only 1GB of RAM.

VirtualBox presents you with a slider bar for allocating RAM to your virtual machine.

Yes, VirtualBox will let you run a virtual 32-bit operating system even if your physical processor is 64-bit. Whichever version of the OS you use, it will run better with more RAM, though the 32-bit version of Windows can only handle no more than 4GB of memory maximum.

After you’ve allocated the RAM, clickCreate a virtual hard drive now. VirtualBox will ask you how much of your hard disk space it should use to create the virtual PC’s hard drive. For the file type to use, choose VDI. You must also decide whether to allocate your virtual hard drive dynamically or all at once. The latter is better for performance, but it will use up all of the space on your host drive at once. We recommend choosing the dynamic option.

Next, you must allocate enough storage space to install the operating system and have some room left over for applications. You can probably get away with allocating Microsoft’s 20GB minimum, but we’d opt for VirtualBox’s recommended 25GB, just to be safe. If you plan to try out a lot of apps or desktops programs, set aside even more space if you have it available.

One final way of improving your virtual machine’s performance is to give it additional virtual processor cores. You can do this only if your processor supports hardware virtualization, so check the specs on your model to see whether virtualization is listed as a feature. If it is, click first the Settings button, and then the System menu. Click the Processor tab, and drag the Processors slider to the right to increase the number of cores available for Windows 8. As with RAM, don’t allocate all of your CPU cores to the virtual machine unless you want your main desktop OS to chug when Windows 8 is up and running.

Install Windows 8

In the Storage settings, click the empty CD slot under the Controller: IDE entry in the Storage Tree, and then click the CD icon on the far right side of the screen.

Your virtual PC should now be set up. The next step is to put the install disc in the drive, figuratively speaking. Click the Settings button, and navigate to the Storage settings, using the left-side navigation panel. There, click the empty CD slot under the Controller: IDE entry in the Storage Tree, and then click the button marked with a CD icon on the far right side of the screen. A file browser window will pop up; in it, find and select the Windows 8 ISO that you downloaded. Don’t move the ISO once the virtual machine is configured—otherwise, Windows 8 won’t work.

At this point you’re ready to fire up the virtual PC for the first time. Select the virtual machine you just created, and click the green Start arrow. A new window will open, and soon you should see the Windows 8 install screen. If you see an error message instead, and you’ve chosen to allocate virtual CPU cores to the machine, enable your CPU’s virtualization option in the system BIOS; then try booting the virtual machine again.

Windows 8 installs in a jiffy (for a Microsoft operating system).

From here, you’ll work through the simple installer, agreeing to the terms of service, selecting an install location, and choosing whether to do an upgrade or a clean install. Choose the clean install option.

Windows will unpack and install the necessary files, and when it’s done your virtual PC will restart. At that point, Windows 8 proper will start up, and you’ll have to complete a brief configuration process. Select a name and color scheme for your computer, and enter your Microsoft account information. Now you’re ready to use Windows 8 for the low, low price of absolutely free.

…and we have virtual liftoff!

Apart from the two important limitations mentioned at the beginning of this article, the evaluation version of Windows 8 has all the same features as the full version, so you can install software and do anything else that you’d do in the final version of the OS. (Why not give Xbox Music a spin?) We found that the Windows Store frequently timed out in the virtual machine, but that didn’t prevent us from downloading and running apps; clicking ‘Try Again’ after a time out always loaded the desired screen in short order.

If you try Windows 8 and decide that you don’t like it, note that VirtualBox can run a ton of major Linux releases using the same basic setup procedure. Feel free to give the dork side a whirl at your leisure.

 

 

Windows Phone 8 release date and latest details


Windows Phone 8 release date and latest details

UPDATED Windows Phone Apollo – all you need to know

Windows Phone 8 release date and latest details
Skype will be deeply integrated into Apollo

UPDATE: Check out our hands on:Windows Phone 8 review.

Microsoft has officially announced Windows Phone 8 (which you may know better as Apollo) and confirming many of the rumours about the new operating system at the Windows Phone Summit.

The new operating system is tasked with catching up to the dominate iOS and Android platforms, and become the stand-out third choice mobile OS, something RIM is also hoping to achieve once it launches BlackBerry 10 early next year.

Windows Phone 8 release date

Microsoft is holding a special Windows Phone 8 event in San Francisco on October 29 to official launch the latest version of its mobile operating platform.

TechRadar will be reporting live from the event, where we hope to find out the official Windows Phone 8 release date, which looks set to be early November, if rumours about handset arrivals are to be believed.

We’ve already seen three manufacturers announce their first Windows Phone 8 device, the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820HTC Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S and the Samsung Galaxy Ativ S.

Huawei has also been granted permission by Microsoft to build a Windows Phone 8 handset for launch, but we’re yet to hear any official on this from the Chinese firm, with rumours pointing towards a slightly more budget handset, possibly called the Ascend W1.

Windows Phone 8 – who’s on board?

Samsung, Huawei, HTC and Nokia are the only confirmed Windows Phone 8 manufacturers at this time – although ZTE told TechRadar it will be launching WP8-powered handsets in 2013.

During IFA 2012 in Berlin Samsung unveiled its first Windows Phone 8 handset, the Ativ S, which will pack a large 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, with the choice of 16GB and 32GB of internal storage.

Huawei will be bringing out a Windows Phone 8 handset by the end of the year too, with Shao Yang, chief marketing officer for Huawei, saying: “We are poised to end the year with a big bang – with the introduction of our first smartphone running on the Windows Phone platform.”

Nokia has also unveiled its first two handsets to run Windows Phone 8 at a special event in New York.

The flagship Nokia Lumia 920 will head up the Finnish firm’s range, sporting a 4.5-inch HD display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 8.7MP rear ‘Pureview’ camera, 32GB of internal memory and 1GB of RAM, helping it to run Microsoft’s latest mobile platform.

Nokia’s second device is the Lumia 820 – a mid-range handset which features a 4.3-inch screen, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, NFC and 1,650mAh battery.

HTC has officially joined the Windows Phone 8 game too, with the launch of the HTC Windows Phone 8X and HTC Windows Phone 8S.

Given the phones are officially called ‘Windows Phone 8X/S by HTC’ it’s a curious move from Microsoft to make the Taiwanese manufacturer the flagship brand for the new version of the platform.

Both phones exhibit solid design, feel great in the hand, and while they’re not as thing as the competition offer tapered chassis to add a better position during use.

The 8X and 8S both offer up Beats Audio for enhanced sound, but the 8X is the superior experience thanks to a larger 4.3-inch screen, compared to the 4-inch of the latter.

Update: Rumours suggest that Nokia’s Windows Phone 8 handsets will be the most expensive, as HTC and Samsung look to undercut the Finnish firm in an attempt to steal market share away.

At the other end of the scale, the Huawei Ascend W1 is expected to be the cheapest, with sources claiming it will come in at around $300-$350 (£185-215/AU$290-340).

Update: Microsoft could be planning to launch its own smartphone, with rumours surrounding a Surface phone doing the rounds, further boosted by Nokia’s CEO dropping a possible hint.

Windows Phone 8 apps

The problem for Windows Phone is less the existing users – who tend to be enthusiastic as well as demanding – and more selling the phones.

The partnership with Nokia is certainly helping, as will the announcement that the Windows Phone Marketplace is now up to 100,000 apps with more coming – from the PayPal support for Wallet to iPhone must-haves like Words with Friends and Audible, plus Zynga’s newly acquired Draw Something.

Windows Phone 8

All Windows Phone 7 apps will run on Windows Phone 8 handsets; but in future developers will have to choose whether to make an app that only uses Windows Phone 7 features and works on both, or one that uses Windows Phone 8.

This means supporting features like Wallet, VOIP, native code or being able to run navigation in the background (which should mean we finally see some full-featured turn-by-turn navigation apps that go beyond what Nokia Drive offers).

TomTom clearly sees the power of Nokia Drive too, as it reckons it will be looking at a Windows Phone 8 app in the future, despite saying it has ‘a bit of a love hate relationship with Windows Phone’.

EA has come out in support of Windows Phone 8 platform too, with the powerful Windows 8 synergy seemingly enough to encourage the brand to state: “Anything that allows more platforms to be adopted quickly that have a gaming element is good for Electronic Arts.”

However, BBC iPlayer isn’t likely to appear on the platform due to the development tools used, meaning it will still lag behind iOS and Android in the VOD stakes.

There are other advantages, but with the interfaces to components like graphics, audio and sensors being far more similar to those in Windows 8, it’s a lot easier to write Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps that share features.

Or, of course, they can make two versions, one for 7 and one for 8; how often that happens is going to depend both on how easy Microsoft makes it to share code between versions of apps in its developer tools and on sales of Windows Phone 8 handsets.

Windows Phone 8 interface

There is one feature of Windows Phone you will be able to get on current handsets (with an update that has the strikingly appropriate name of Windows Phone 7.8) and that’s the new Start screen. This now uses the whole width of the screen, without the arrow to tell you to swipe sideways for more apps.

With the extra space you can fit in a lot more tiles, which can now be three different sizes. There’s a new small size that you can pick for any app, so if you don’t need the Office hub or the dialler to have a full size button because there’s not that much useful information on them, you can shrink them down.

New start screen:With the extra space you can fit in a lot more tiles, which can now be three different sizes.

And as well as the current standard tile size, any app will be able to have an extra-large tile to fit more details onto the live tile. Along with some new colour schemes, that makes the Start screen look much more personal.

But the overall look of the platform hasn’t changed dramatically – you’re still offered a list of apps adjacent to the Start screen, and the panorama method of seeing more information by moving horizontally remains – after all, why change one of the best things about the old OS?

A few new features look set to still be unveiled – for instance, the mysterious Rooms to allow for shared calendars and photos – so we’re still eagerly awaiting the official unveil later this year.

Update: Microsoft could incorporate a new kind of live wallpaper when it reveals the Windows Phone 8 operating system in full, after the Nokia Innovation site has posted an image with WP8 handsets showcasing updates from an NFL game and another showing thumbnail images from news stories.

Windows Phone 8 – under the hood

Windows Phone 8 is a major new version, running the kernel from Windows rather than from Windows CE.

It isn’t the same as Windows 8, or even Windows RT – even though that also runs on ARM processors – and it doesn’t have the same look to the Start screen and Metro-style WinRT apps won’t run on Windows Phone 8.

But under the hood it’s a lot more similar to develop for and Windows Phone gets several key components from ‘big’ Windows as well as some significant new features and new hardware, which is good news for what developers can make apps do with the increased access they get to the phone system.

 

Windows Phone 8

 

Don’t expect the same do-anything, break-anything ethos of Android though; battery life and user experience are still priorities for Windows Phone and even native applications run in a sandbox.

Windows Phone 8 future updates

There’s good news regarding future software updates on Windows Phone 8, as you won’t have to wait until your mobile network gets around to testing and pushing out updates.

There’s going to be a way for users to get updates directly from Microsoft (perhaps labelled as beta releases) as long as they assume responsibility for anything that goes wrong.

It’s good to see Microsoft is finally doing something to address the problem of upgrades that would work on your handset but you’re frustratingly unable to get due to networks getting in the way – listen up, Google.

Windows Phone 8 browser and security

Key features that Windows Phone 8 gets from Windows include Internet Explorer 10, complete with the phishing filter and SmartScreen application reputation service to make it harder for malicious websites to trick you into giving away personal information like credit card details or downloading malware.

Malware hasn’t been a problem for Windows Phone so far, but any platform that becomes successful is going to get attacked.

Windows Phone gets other Windows security features like disk encryption and secure boot, so businesses will be happier to use it (especially as they can now manage devices and sideload their own business applications).

Windows Phone 8 media and gaming

Audio, graphics and media playback all work more like their Windows equivalents, which should make for more powerful games and entertainment apps.

However, this means that current games will need to be re-tooled to take advantage of the new platform – the likes of Rovio can leave their games as Windows Phone 7 versions, but they’ll likely want to re-release a more powerful version of the game too.

 

Windows Phone 8

 

But given the increased GPU support and power on offer, we’ll at least start seeing some more 3D-rich gaming environments that start taxing the Windows Phone 8 handsets compared to their previous counterparts.

Video calling

There’s one place where Windows Phone is jumping ahead of Windows; VOIP calls will look just like regular phone calls with all the same features and notifications. Obviously that’s good for Skype but other VOIP apps like Tango will get the same support.

 

Windows Phone 8

 

We’re still waiting to see how deep Skype integration gets into the Windows Phone 8 OS, as given it’s already available as an app on the Windows Phone Marketplace it should be shoved pretty deeply into the platform.

Will it lead to a surge in video calling? Probably not, but as there are strong rumours the Xbox platform will be getting a taste of video calling too it seems only fair that Windows Phone 8 devices, complete with their improved front-facing cameras, should be given priority.

Windows Phone 8 CPU

To make all this work well Windows Phone 8 will run on new hardware; still ARM processors, still the Snapdragon platform from Qualcomm but now with multicore processors, with a new generation of GPUs, and with NFC support.

Battery life is still priority for the platform, so we doubt Microsoft is going to allow any CPUs that get too amorous with the power pack – but more power is a big selling point in today’s smartphone market, so this makes enormous sense.

Microsoft Wallet

The new Microsoft Wallet app will allow you to make payments by tapping your phone on a credit card reader the way Google Wallet does, and store credit card and membership details securely and tap your phone to send them the way iOS 6 will.

And you’re not tied to using a Microsoft payment service; applications will be able to tap into the Wallet system to set up new payment services – which will include Paypal.

The app is a hub for digital coupons and debit or credit cards – plus you can add in loyalty cards and third party apps that will notify you when they become relevant.

NFC support

NFC is there for Microsoft’s Wallet payment system, but has other options as well. The OS supports secure SIM, which means users’ can swap from handset to handset and take their payment method with them physically.

There are other applications that Nokia is keen to utilise as well, such as being able to pair with its Bluetooth accessories with a simple tap of the phone – it’s a trick we’ve seen on the old Symbian phones and one we expect to feature heavily here too.

Speech recognition

Microsoft has teamed up with Audible to bring speech recognition to Windows Phone 8, allowing users to shout a variety of commands at their handsets.

During the keynote presentation, we saw a demo of the speech platform – which allowed a user to play movies, browse audiobooks and perform searches.

It’s also available for Mango devices, so pop over to the Marketplace today and search Audible if you fancy a go.

Windows Phone 8 upgrades

That’s the reason that you won’t be able to upgrade any existing Windows Phone handsets to 8, because they don’t have the hardware to support the new features or deliver the multitasking performance that the Windows kernel and the improved VOIP support needs.

Only two of the rumoured new resolutions are being announced, both widescreen formats: 1280 by 768 and 1280 by 720 as well as the current 800 by 480, which should give phone makers more flexibility when it comes to choosing parts they can use in multiple devices.

And Windows Phone finally sorts out its SD card support; you’ll be able to store media files on a micro SD card or install applications onto it.

Take a moment to check out our Windows Phone 8 round up video below.

 

Windows 8 release date is October 26


The window start page

Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8, will launch on October 26, the company has confirmed.

Writing on the official ‘Blogging Windows’ site, Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc said that “Steven Sinofsky [Microsoft’s head of Windows] announced at Microsoft’s annual sales meeting that customers will be able to get Windows 8 – whether in upgrade fashion or on a new PC – starting on October 26”.

The software giant had previously said that Windows 8 would be available in October, but had not confirmed the date.

The new Windows 8 software includes an interface primarily for tablet computers, which Microsoft calls Metro, as well as an enhanced version of the existing Windows 7. Microsoft has described the update as its most radical, and is even producing its own range of computers, called Surface, to showcase it. It hopes to challenge Google and Apple for the dominance of the tablet category.

The latest trial version of the software, release Preview, expands on the Consumer Preview that Microsoft released in Barcelona earlier in the year, and is available free for users to download and test. Users are warned, however, that the free test expires and will entirely replace the existing Windows operating system.

Gabriel Aul, Director of Windows Programme Management, told the Telegraph that the release preview software was “all of what will be in the final product in terms of big features”. He added, however, that colours and themes were yet to be finalised.

The new software is designed to work as well on tablets as on traditional computers, and will replace Microsoft Windows 7, which has sold 525 million copies since it was released three years ago. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has already talked of 500million machines running Windows 8 within a year.
The Metro interface borrows heavily from Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, while Microsoft has also redesigned the traditional ‘Start’ button, replacing it with a much more angular design that changes colour depending on which theme a user chooses. The Start menu has become an entire, customisable homescreen, and in desktop mode the Start button is no longer a permanent fixture