Hyper-V, Microsoft's enterprise virtualization tool, has been available to IT administrators in recent versions of Windows Server, but Windows 8 brings it to the client OS. This will help end users run other operating systems, including older versions of Windows, inside a virtual machine -- a boon for companies that need to run legacy apps.
Hyper-V will replace Windows 7's more rudimentary Virtual PC component and add a management layer so admins can tweak options for storage drives and VM settings when a client uses the virtual machine. It's an important addition to Windows 8, King says, but he warns that many end users will find Hyper-V too complex and that technical staff may find more value in it.
On the server side, Windows Server 8 includes a new Hyper-V live migration feature that makes it easier to deploy virtual instances to clients. These client and server options give IT the flexibility to provide some users with ready-to-go virtual machines while allowing more tech-savvy users to deploy their own.
Microsoft says these and other enhancements to Hyper-V will put it on par with its more well-established virtualization competitor, VMware. Businesses will have to decide between paying for the mature features of VMware and using Hyper-V, which is included with Windows 8 client and server licenses. Of course, for those IT managers who are more familiar with VMware, there may be hidden costs in learning the Microsoft tool, supporting it and training end users.
Verdict: Built-in virtualization technology in Windows 8 is a big win for companies that have not widely deployed VMware.
A beefed-up Task Manager
One of the most improved features in Windows 8 is the redesigned Task Manager, which is both simpler and more detailed than before. Instead of a cryptic list of processes and stats, the default screen shows just the names of running applications and lets you quickly kill any that aren't responding.
Clicking the "More details" button brings up the advanced Task Manager, which reveals a wealth of information including total CPU usage time for each app, a CPU performance graph and more details about the memory and other system resources each app is using.
The graphs that show CPU performance also allow you to view disk performance by clicking on a tile. You can even view a history of your wireless networking speed, and monitor send-and-receive rates.
Verdict: A handy improvement for beginners and power users alike.