Nearly a year after Windows 7 was originally released to enterprise customers and PC manufacturers, details of what's coming in the next major release of Microsoft's ubiquitous operating system have already started to leak out.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has said for several years that it would rotate Windows releases between relatively minor updates like Windows 7 and major updates like Windows 8.
Now, some slides and text apparently meant for PC OEMs, describing proposed new features in Windows 8, have been posted on the Internet by Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) Francisco Martín García in Madrid. Garcia did not say how he came by the materials.
On the list of proposed new features is one that has been a sort of holy grail for Microsoft and its PC partners, as well as for frustrated users, for more than a decade -- an "instant on" feature that would enable a Windows 8 PC to load and open in a matter of seconds instead of what can be excruciating minutes. So far, that's been an elusive promise to keep.
"Windows 8 PCs turn on fast, nearly instantly in some cases, and are ready to work without any long or unexpected delays ... [w]hen customers want to check e-mail, sports scores, or play media they love to reach for their PCs because they can get to what they want quickly," said a discussion of the fast booting feature.
Beyond PC OEMs, though, many IT administrators and PC decision makers want to have some idea of when the next release of Windows is coming and what its feature set will, or may, be.
The documents also discuss enhancements intended for laptops' and slate PCs' various sleep states.
Other potential features include "awesome graphics everywhere," the documents say.
"Developers can build modern experiences around display devices by leveraging Windows 8 support for premium media experiences such as stereoscopic 3D [monitors] and Wireless TVs," said a bullet point in the documents. Another discussion describes the ability for Windows 8 "to adapt to changes in ambient light, so that the display is always easy to see."
More on the science-fiction front, Microsoft is working with camera integration to enable scenarios such as the PC recognizing the user and automatically logging the user onto the system.
In the area of performance, Windows 8 is also targeting recent technologies such as USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 3.0, according to the documents.
Windows 7, which was released to manufacturing last July, is considered a minor update because it's based on Windows Vista -- itself considered a major update if not a wildly popular one.
Microsoft has said that minor updates to Windows are likely to come out every two years or so, while so-called major updates will take more like three years between releases.
The posting of slides is the third time in recent months that information regarding Windows 8 has leaked out.
In November, barely a month after Windows 7's consumer launch, slides presented at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference 2009 implied that Windows 8 would ship in 2012.
Two months later, in late January 2010, a former Microsoft employee posted his own predictions of projected ship dates for upcoming company products, again including Windows 8. However, that post had Windows 8 -- and Windows Server, since the two share much of the same code base -- pegged for release in 2011.
Microsoft declined to comment on either story, responding with the boilerplate statement that the company doesn't comment on "rumors and speculation."
Meanwhile, Microsoft is currently readying the first public beta of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows 7 in time to begin testing in late July, a year after Windows 7 shipped. Early adopters began receiving pre-beta code for SP1 in recent weeks.