Microsoft still won't officially use Windows and the number eight in the same sentence, but several Microsoft enthusiast sites have posted what appear to be some early details on the next version of Microsoft's flagship operating system.
On his Microsoft Journal Web site, Francisco Martin Garcia posted several slides stamped "Microsoft Confidential" that discuss key features of the still hush-hush operating system, including a focus on facial recognition as a means of authentication as well as improving boot-up times. The goal, according to the information, is that slates and laptops would be able to resume from sleep in less than a second.
The slides also suggest that the new operating system will support features such as 3D displays, wireless connection to televisions, as well as for things like USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 3.0. CNET has not yet been able to independently confirm the authenticity of the slides, but key points, such as the use of internal Microsoft jargon, lend weight to their legitimacy.
Among the other features said to be under consideration for Windows 8 is an ambient light feature that would allow the display to automatically adjust to changes in lighting. Microsoft is also said to be considering a new mechanism for resetting a PC to its default state, while keeping a user's files, settings, and applications.
Another enthusiast site, Microsoft Kitchen, has a bunch more slides, including a discussion of Apple; plans to focus on slates, laptops, and all-in-ones; as well as a focus on improved energy efficiency. Many of those slides are also dated April 20, 2010.
A Microsoft representative was not immediately available for comment.
The software maker has not talked about its plans beyond Windows 7. Microsoft has said that it is working on a minor "service pack" update to Windows 7 and will start testing it next month. That update, however, consists largely of bug fixes and doesn't add significant features. Much of the company's plans for this year center around touting the popularity of Windows 7 and pitching updates being made to the free, downloadable Windows Live Essentials programs, including Photo Gallery and Movie Maker. The company issued a public beta version of the updated Essentials tools last week, also noting that Microsoft has now sold 150 million Windows 7 licenses.
Although the desktop team hasn't commented on when to expect Windows 8, the Windows Server team showed slides at last year's Professional Developers Conference saying that it expected to have a major release of that operating system around 2012. Earlier this month, Server and Tools unit president Bob Muglia confirmed to CNET that the next server operating system will be a major release and is being developed along with its desktop counterpart, although he did not give a release time frame.
Beyond the features listed, the Microsoft Journal slides also suggest how far along development was, as of their writing. The slides make reference to feedback that Microsoft still wanted to gather on encrypted hard drives prior to "M1." Microsoft typically refers to internal milestones as M1, M2, etc. So this suggests that the company is still in the planning, rather than testing phase, at least as of the writing of the document.
The slides do appear to continue along some of the messaging themes that Microsoft started with Windows 7, both in terms of how it markets Windows to consumers as well as its efforts to improve collaboration with PC makers. The slides make reference to designing Windows 8 with the goal that PC makers will have more opportunities to make their systems unique.
Microsoft has been holding a regular series of meetings, known as forums, with hardware makers to improve relations post-Windows Vista. Several computer makers said there were significant improvements in communication during both the design and testing of Windows 7.
The Microsoft Journal document also makes reference to Forum II, while the April Microsoft Kitchen documents have Forum II highlighted, suggesting that perhaps they came from that meeting with computer makers. There is also reference to a Forum I with a December date. Future events are listed as to be determined in the slides.
Update, 11:35 a.m.: Enthusiast site Neowin says the leaked documents also point to plans for an app store for Windows 8.
Update, 11:45 a.m.: Added details above from Microsoft Kitchen on other purported features and plans for Windows 8.