The Technical Side Of Windows 8

As we mentioned in the opening of this article, the single biggest addition to Windows 8 coming from Windows 7 will be Metro. Microsoft’s last major overhaul of Windows’ underpinnings was Windows Vista, and like Windows 7 before it, Microsoft is not looking to significantly alter the operation of the Windows kernel or related systems for Windows 8. With that said this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any technical changes that will ship with Windows 8.

Fundamentally Microsoft wants to keep the system requirements for Windows 8 the same as Windows 7, which means it needs to run (with varying definitions of “smoothly”) on a 1GHz CPU paired with 1GB of RAM and a DX9 class GPU. Realistically as their published requirements stand there is one difference from Windows 7: Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM). Windows 7 would work with older XPDM drivers (albeit without any of the benefits of WDDM), however Windows 8 specifically mentions WDDM as a requirement. This makes sense given the greater reliance on the GPU for Metro, but it also means there are going to be some machines out there using very early DX9 GPUs (e.g. Intel GMA 900) that won’t be able to run Windows 8 due to a lack of video drivers.

In any case the addition of ARM into the mix will be sure to spice things up., While Microsoft is optimizing Windows 8 to run on ARM CPUs there’s a vast range of ARM CPUs, and this is the full version of Windows. Microsoft’s current system requirements are easily discernable as x86 based, and we’d expect the ARM requirements to be fairly high to keep pace. Give the launch of quad core ARM SoCs later this year, it’s likely that will be a popular pairing with Windows 8 when it launches.

On a final note about system requirements, while Microsoft isn’t talking about specific versions of Windows 8 at this time, they’ve made it clear that x86 will live on for at least one more generation in order to fulfill their desire to have Windows 8 run on everything Windows 7 ran on. So x86 versions of Windows should be expected.

Moving on, as this was a press session as opposed to a technical session, Microsoft was a bit light on the details. We’re expecting quite a bit more in the next couple of days, but for the moment we’ve only been briefed on a few user-facing technologies that are new to Windows 8.

On the hardcore side of things, Microsoft has added a few tricks to Windows in order to keep memory usage from growing and to make the OS better suited for tablets. On the memory side they have added Page Combining, which will combine duplicate memory pages into a single page. This is primarily to reduce the overhead from multiple applications all having copies of the same shared resource by having applications outright share that resource’s memory pages. Page Combining will primarily be a tool for reclaiming memory when memory usage is approaching critical levels.

For making the OS better suited for tablet hardware, Microsoft has focused on small changes that can help the hardware sleep longer and wake up less often. Coalescing system timers and a dynamic tick mechanism are two such features that will be coming to Windows 8 (unfortunately we don’t have any more details on their function at this time). Meanwhile Metro will play a big part in making Windows tablet friendly, as Metro applications will be designed from the start to be able to handle phone/tablet style process management. This is to say that discarded applications will continue to stay open as a background application, having all of their memory pages intact but unable to schedule CPU time so long as they’re a background application. They’ll remain in this state until the OS decides to evict them, at which point they need to be able to gracefully shut down and resume when the user re-launches the application. Internally Microsoft calls this freezing and rehydrating an application.

The Windows Store The Technical Side Of Windows 8: Cont
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  • kevith - Friday, September 16, 2011 - link

    Read the review, man Reply
  • augiem - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    I agree. This is an experiment... and one that is doomed to failure. Designers tend to be people of extremes and always push for "change" simply for change's sake. (Because it makes them look good, as if they're thinking outside the box. Contrast is easy to spot.) This is a knee-jerk reaction to the success of iOS. No power user or even business user will accept this because plain and simply it's a huge speedbump to productivity. iOS was so successful because it was targeted at an audience that was only interested in consumption, and even limited consumption at that. Desktops more often than not NOT used in a consumtive manner. (This of all the people sitting at work typing stuff into spreadsheets and running CSR software). This will not fly. It's an attempt to look "modern" by simplifying things for the unwashed masses, but it ain't gonna work. They're going to have to split windows into yet another branch, this time for consumption devices like tablets and media center PC's. This is a joke (and not a funny one) to any power user. Live titles??? Give me a break. Like I said, it's for consumption boxes. Who needs live titles to do your video editing / word processing / data crunching / etc job? Reply
  • futurepastnow - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    Are we, as a society, so stupid and juvenile that we need big colorful buttons for everything? When you use this with a mouse and keyboard, not a touch tablet, you're going to feel stupid.

    Look! It's a button that's four inches across! I hope I don't miss it with the mouse cursor! *click* Oh, good, I got it. Boy, those little icons Windows 7 had sure were hard to click on.

    And I am deeply concerned about my ability to turn this Metro s**t all the way off. Microsoft has stated that you won't be able to use Windows 8 without Metro. Folks saying "just turn it off" don't seem to get it- the Start Menu is *gone* in Windows 8 and this garbage has replaced it. Metro is the shell; it can't be turned off, yet. I think it's probable that MS will backtrack off its idiotic stance of forcing Metro on us, but they may not.

    You think people want live icons? Remember the Sidebar? Neither do I. Nobody uses the Dashboard on OSX, either.
    Reply
  • BioTurboNick - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    The point is that they aren't just buttons, they are ways to see what is contained within the button or display information. I honestly don't get what's wrong. How often do you keep the start menu open? If everything you do is on the desktop, you'll barely ever see it. Reply
  • UMADBRO - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    I know I rarely ever open mine. I have all the commonly used programs and links pinned to my taskbar. People are gonna piss and moan no matter what. Just ignore them. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    I don't leave the start menu open. That isn't the point. The point is that the start menu is not fullscreen.

    All of this Metro crap is fullscreen and it's so integrated into the OS that it can't all be turned off. It's silly fluff for touchscreens, and why should it cover up everything else I'm doing, every other window I have open, whenever the OS decides it needs to go fullscreen?

    Fullscreen applications are not progress. They are, in fact, anti-progress, and just because Apple is doing it is no excuse. The olny things that should ever be fullscreen are movies and games and sometimes not even them.

    This is not progress.
    Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    As I have said elsewhere, my desktop is always hidden behind the many application windows I have open at any given time. Whatever information the buttons are displaying is irrelevant to me since I will rarely if ever see it. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    The big colorful buttons aren't going to be underneath all of your open windows. They're not on the desktop at the bottom. They''re going to be ON TOP OF your open windows any time you do anything that invokes the Metro interface- which will be often. Reply
  • Wraith404 - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    Not if you turn the garbage off. I feel for developers that waste time creating metro applications for anything but tablets. It's going to be hard disabled on 90% of desktops. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure the average computer mom and pop computer user is going to be proficient enough to turn it off. They're just going to be angry about it, the way they were angry about Vista's aggressive UAC.

    Not good for Microsoft.
    Reply

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