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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  • theangryintern - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    "It's proven itself in the phone form factor"

    Yeah, cuz WP7 phones are just flying off the shelves. /sarcasm (in case you couldn't tell)
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    I like big buttons, I cannot lie. I have big icons I my desktop so as to facilitate remote usage. Reply
  • augiem - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Tell them what you think with your wallet. Pull a Vista on them. Do not buy Windows 8. Simple as that. Win 7 will be supported for probably 10 years. I for one am not going to screw productivity by installing this. When MS's revenues fall through the floor, they'll get the message.

    This is NOT the future of computing. As much as we'd all love to have Star Trek's computer where it just does everything for you, that's never going to happen.
    Reply
  • jvillaro - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    You are as a consumer, in your right to just not buy it or use it. And MS is in their right to offer new things, change things up, take a risk and either fail or succeed.
    Garbage, idiotic, etc are your opinions... which many of us could think of you. That's the way it goes, maybe you could wait till it's released to make a real judgement.
    Reply
  • Gimfred - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    Live tiles are 1000x more useful than static windows 3.1 style icons

    Why do the icons have to stay static? Like the look but think it will get in my way or my way will get in its way. If there are animated [informative] icons now, no reason they can't be improved on.
    Reply
  • taltamir - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    You are confusing windows and linux.
    Windows has near 0 backwards compatibility. If you want to run an app or game that was made for windows 95, 98, or 2k you need to run it in linux under Wine because windows 7 will fail to run it.

    @Metro: I hate it, its horrible. It looks neat on a tablet but how am I supposed to use it with a mouse and keyboard on my desktop or laptop?
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    This post has to either be a joke or you are incredibly out of touch.

    Windows has 0 backwards compat? I run *DOS* apps in Windows 7. WTF are you talking about?

    And if you didnt notice, Windows 7 has "XP compat" mode. A free instance of XP to run in a VM on a free desktop type 2 hypervisor.

    Did you miss the compatibility tab and the "Run as ...." option that goes all the way back to W95?

    Show me the app you can get to run in WINE that someone competent cant get to run under Windows. Maybe you ran into some outlier case, but thats like the guy who smokes 10 packs a day and lives until 90. Idiotic to try to pretend its the rule.

    MSFT has suffered *mightily* for backwards compat unlike Apple and, yes, mighty Linux also. There are *plenty* of stranded apps that require recoding to work with newer libraries and newer kernel revs on Linux.
    Reply
  • Wraith404 - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    How much time do you spend looking at your desktop? I do actual work, so I see mine about once a week. Live tiles are a gimmick derived from Android widgets, and are pretty much only useful on a fondleslab, and even then the usefulness is limited. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    I'm used to using Windows Media Center so it won't be much of a change for me and as for that Fisher price thing.... People are BUYING ipads so you can see where everything is heading! Reply
  • fcx56 - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    Exactly, I'm surprised no one has seen this coming. This interface began in 2005 with XP Media Centre Edition and with subsequent updates through Vista and 7, all they had to add were the tiles implemented in WP7 and here we are, a tablet interface to accompany ARM support. Reply

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