Predictions for Windows 8

Windows 7 is yesterday's news. It's time to start thinking about Windows 8 and what it holds in store for IT

Windows 7 has finally been released to manufacturing. You can catch my formal review at the InfoWorld Test Center, but suffice it to say I'm not sad to see it go. After two public releases and nearly a dozen leaked builds, I'm sick of installing and testing what amounts to Vista R2. It's time to move on to the next version: Windows 8.

Of course, we currently know nothing about Windows 7's successor. Microsoft isn't dropping any hints, and with Steve Sinofsky heading up the whole Windows platform, don't expect this to change anytime soon. But that doesn't mean we can't start speculating. Here are my top five predictions for Windows 8:

[ Get the full InfoWorld review of Windows 7 RTM. | Learn where multicore support makes a difference in Windows 7. | See what the competing Mac OS X Snow Leopard promises business and IT . ]

Prediction 1: No more 32-bit. Microsoft has been juggling the whole 32-bit versus 64-bit equation for far too long. Maintaining dual code bases -- even with copious source sharing between them -- is a real waste of resources. We saw it first with Windows Server 2008 R2. Expect a repeat performance with Windows 8, which will be 64-bit-only.

Prediction 2: Mesh is big. Microsoft's Live Mesh is a real sleeper technology. I expected big things from this hybrid local/cloud synchronization framework for Windows 7, but Microsoft chose instead to focus on build quality. However, you'll be hearing a lot more about it in the coming months as Microsoft continues to extend Windows into the cloud.

Prediction 3: App-V makes its mark. I've already declared Windows XP mode to be a brain-dead way of implementing legacy compatibility. However, given the time constraints associated with Windows 7, Microsoft chose the easy route and put off the hard work of integrating application virtualization for another day. Expect to see App-V come to prominence as the company seeks to further abstract its legacy Windows APIs from the core OS.

Prediction 4: Windows gets fatter. Forget all your MinWin fantasies. The reality turned out to be quite different -- namely, the compartmentalization of Windows layers to map and remove dependencies. Expect this work to continue with Windows 8, but for the core OS model -- NT Executive supporting various runtime subsystem environments -- to remain relatively unmodified. Windows 7 has shown us that incremental change is a good thing, especially at the kernel level. There's a reason why this latest iteration is so stable, and it has more to do with what Microsoft didn't change than any improvements it made under the hood.

Prediction 5: Subscribe today. The days of the shrinkwrapped package are numbered. Microsoft is already flirting with electronic distribution of Windows via its pre-order program. Expect this trend to continue, with Windows 8 available via a downloadable installer application that you receive after registering for you new Windows client subscription.

Note: As with any predictions article, take the above with a grain of salt. After all, with Google's Chrome OS on the horizon, we may well find ourselves living in a Google-dominated world where the very idea of a non-Web-based OS seems anachronistic.

At least that's what everyone keeps telling me.

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