By now you've probably heard the news that Windows 8 build 9200 has been designated the RTM build. If you work for a hardware manufacturer (or Microsoft), you may even be reading this post with the final versions of Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft promises that those of us who subscribe to MSDN or TechNet will get the bits -- and a key -- on Aug. 15; volume licensees with Software Assurance will get the same bits on Aug. 16.
But not all of the shoes have dropped. In fact, some of the most important questions have yet to be answered -- even for those fortunate enough to be running the RTM release.
- What happened to Windows RT? There's lots and lots of talk about Windows 8, but not even a whisper about the version that's supposed to shake up the consumer industry.
- What about Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7? Microsoft seems to have forgotten all about IE10 on Win7, even though the platform beta hit nearly 18 months ago.
- Ummmm, prices? The Windows 8 Pro/Media Center online upgrade (from XP, Vista, or Windows 7) runs $40, but will there be a cheaper "regular" Windows 8 upgrade for those who don't want Pro (or Media Center)? What about the System Builder edition for folks who want to dual boot, run Windows 8 in a VM, or (shudder) on Boot Camp?
- How long until we can get hardware that really works with Windows 8? Don't know about you, but I'm ready to scream at my jury-rigged Windows 7 touch-sensitive tablet. All of this new hardware's rumored to be floating around -- 20 Windows 8 tablets are on the way, according to Intel, presumably by General Availability on Oct. 26 -- but I don't see anything on the immediate horizon. Using Metro on a sorta-touch-sensitive, heavy, and battery-guzzling tablet frustrates the daylights out of ham-fisted pokers like me.
- The new Metro apps have to carry the battle against other tablets -- they're front and center in the Windows RT vs. iPad wars -- and there's been very little discussion about the "final" versions, aside from a few leaked screenshots. ("Final" here being an ephemeral term: Windows Store apps are made to rev quickly, of course.) For example, I would be very impressed if Metro Mail packed all of the features of Outlook.com, but that's by no means certain. And there's a nagging question in the back of my head as to why, after all these years, Microsoft still has so many incompatible, competitive mail clients. The other Metro app "previews" offered to date go heavy on the sizzle but nowhere on the steak. Perhaps all will be revealed on Oct. 26.
- The $64 million question: What about prices for Windows RT systems -- both Microsoft Surface tablets and others?
Looking down the road, there's already a lot of talk about Windows 9. Clearly, Microsoft can't afford to wait three years to turn out the next version of Windows, particularly when it's competing in a shark tank filled with once-a-year-or-better upgrade cycles. The old-fashioned "19th-century dentist office" desktop didn't evolve a whole lot between Windows 7 and Windows 8. Maybe we're at the end of the road for desktop upgrades -- and the Metro side of the fence should be much easier to modify.
Perhaps Microsoft will reimagine the upgrade process?
This story, "What we still don't know about the new Windows," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.