Monthly News International

Microsoft Promises Windows 8 Will Be Fully Mobile


Caroline Gabriel

Caroline GabrielMicrosoft has talked up the inherent mobility in its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, though that raises further doubts over the future role of WP7. The company said the new platform - its first to span ARM and x86 architectures as well as touch and conventional interfaces - was designed "with mobility in mind".

Focal Points:

  • It has put more flesh behind that claim, claiming Windows 8 tablets, notebooks and other devices will make it far easier to manage Wi-Fi and cellular connections. "We looked at the fundamentals of wireless connectivity and re-engineered Windows 8 for a mobile and wireless future, going beyond incremental improvements," wrote group program manager Billy Anders in a company blog post.
  • There is a far greater emphasis on embedded 3G/4G connectivity than in previous mainstream Windows releases. "We knew that if we were to give you true mobility, that Wi-Fi alone would not be enough. Therefore, for Windows 8, we fully developed and integrated mobile broadband as a first class connectivity experience within Windows, right alongside Wi-Fi," added Anders in the blog, as spotted by IDG
  • He promises higher levels of automation and a simplified management interface, unlike Windows 7, which requires users to search for and install their own drivers and software. W8, by contrast, comes with a universal mobile broadband driver which will support a wide range of devices and modems, and will be updated automatically via Windows Update
  • W8 will also support native management of all mobile broadband devices within one console, rather than with a separate app for each gadget. "Prior to Windows 8, you needed these applications to compensate for functionality not provided natively in Windows. This additional software confused and frustrated users by conflicting with the Windows connection manager, showing different networks, network status, and a separate user interface," Anders conceded
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functions can also be managed centrally, and users can set criteria, such as which connection type the PC should default to, according to signal strength, air interface, cost or data cap. This should help speed up connection, with W8 promising to reconnect in about a second after returning from standby mode. "You do not have to do anything special for this. Windows just learns which networks you prefer and manages everything for you. This work was a major part of the architectural work we did in the networking stack and with our hardware partners," the blog post continues.

However, the more mobile-friendly W8 becomes, the more WP7 appears to be squeezed into a narrow role on the handset, which will have declining appeal for major OEMs. Some partners have already expressed frustration that WP7 is barred from large-screen devices like tablets, limiting the higher margin product segments which can be addressed and preventing vendors from offering a single platform from smartphone to tablet, Apple-style. If W8-on-ARM performs well, it is conceivable that it will evolve to become the smartphone system too, relegating WP7 to the midrange.