What do we really know about Windows 8?

The latest breathless revelations about leaked (OMG!), confidential (OMG! OMG!) Windows 8 documents

Last week, dormant Windows watchers sprang to life in a huge wave, like fireflies switching on in the Atchafalaya Swamp. Details about Windows 8 leaked (wink, wink) to a card-carrying Windows fan (nod, nod), who blabbed about it in a blog. In Italian, no less.

The ensuing torrent of analyses, speculations, and tea-leaf readings must've had Microsoft's PR handlers jumping for joy. You can't buy publicity like this. Billions of bits were pressed into service illuminating and elucidating on 50 or so slides from a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, all of which come watermarked "Under NDA." Various slides mention both Dell and HP, and it appears likely that the presentation was delivered to folks at Dell or at HP.

[ See Ted Samson's take on the Windows 8 app store in the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. ]

The most complete set of slides that I've seen appear on the Microsoft Kitchen blog.

I think I've read every major analysis of the slides, and I've come to a simple conclusion: We don't know squat about Windows 8. At least, the stuff in the slides is either (1) utterly predictable, (2) highly unlikely, or (3) resurrected ancient history.

In the utterly predictable category:

The rollout will proceed in three phases: planning, development, and readiness. Be still my beating heart. Windows 8 will run on laptops, netbooks, and slates. (As it has for years, eh?) It'll be sold to enthusiasts and consumers.

Hardware manufacturers will have more opportunities to brand Windows for their own PCs and to use Windows to sell their own products. Microsoft's been promising that with every version of Windows since 3.1.

It also appears as if Windiws 8 will have (yet another) new hibernate-like power state, called Logoff+Hibernate. Oh boy. That's, what, seven different Windows-supported power-saving states? This new power state, if you can get it to work, will let your PC start even faster than it can now. Predictable.

Internet Explorer 9 is scheduled to go into beta in August 2010. That should come as a surprise to just about nobody.

For the highly unlikely:

The slides say Windows 8 will start itself by detecting when you approach the PC and log you on by automatically identifying your face. Sure. Beam me up, Scotty. Don't forget to shave.

There's also a new one-button reset that lets you re-install Windows to its factory-fresh condition, with all of your data and settings intact. Right.

In the same-old, same-old category:

We have a promise of (yet another) new, improved Help system. Microsoft has been promising that since Windows 286.

And we're getting a "Windows Store" where you can buy applications and nifty Microsoft hardware like the ever-so-popular Zune and Windows phones like the Kin. Oh wait a sec. I guess the Kin isn't going to be around. (See Nancy Gohring's "Update: Microsoft kills the Kin" report.)

Any semblance between Microsoft's Windows Store and Apple's App Store are purely coincidental, of course.

If the Windows Store sounds familiar, it should. Windows Marketplace filled much the same role for many years, until Microsoft zapped it in November 2008. Windows Marketplace, tied to the now-defunct Digital Locker Assistant, let consumers download and buy third-party Windows software. It was cumbersome, expensive, off-putting to small developers, and, ultimately, utterly unused.

Hard to believe that this time, Microsoft could find the magic combination to turn Windows Marketplace into a competitor to Apple's App Store. I, for one, won't hold my breath.

So there you have it. The predictable. The whiz-bang unlikely. And the same old stuff, only slightly warmed over.

As far as I'm concerned, all we've seen so far about Windows 8 is a load of hot air. Where's the beef?

This article, "What do we really know about Windows 8?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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