Overview of Windows 8

Publish Date: Dec 23, 2012 | 23 Ratings | 4.48 out of 5 | Print

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On October 26, 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8, the newest version of the Windows operating system. Increasing its focus on mobile applications, Microsoft created a version of the OS to run specifically on the ARM architecture. Windows 8 also introduces a new look and feel that mimics a tablet experience on the desktop environment. This article highlights a few of the high-level features of the new OS and discusses how it affects measurement and control systems.

Navigating the New Windows 8 UI

Above: The new Windows 8 Start screen features live tiles for Windows Store apps.

The first feature you notice is the re-imagined Windows 8 UI. Also called the Metro UI or Modern UI at various points in development, the new layout creates a clean and modern look with large and often live-updated application tiles, similar to the functionality of gadgets in Windows 7. Only apps built for Windows 8 have these live tiles. You can get these new apps through the new Windows Store only. Applications previously built for Windows 7 still appear as tiles on the new Start screen but instead appear as static tiles to the right of the live tiles for Windows Store apps. Scrolling to the right in the Start screen reveals these app tiles.

            Similar to other app stores, Microsoft reviews and approves apps before placing them in the marketplace. Apps that support external devices, including both common devices like cameras and printers and more custom hardware, have special restrictions. These apps are automatically downloaded from the Windows Store at device insertion and are required to be free.

            If you are familiar with the desktop from Windows 7, you can still find that functionality. However, the legacy desktop does not include a Start button or menu. Windows 8 instead features a Charm Bar that you can access by moving your cursor to the upper- or lower-right corner of any screen. From the Charm Bar, you can search your files and applications, share content from Windows Store apps, open the Start screen, and manage connected devices or settings. The Charm Bar is also context sensitive, which means some of the items displayed in each of the main categories change based on which app is open when the Charm Bar is open.

Intensifying the Focus on Mobile

Over 100 million tablets and 650 million smartphones are expected to be shipped in 2012. Meanwhile, desktops and laptops combined will sell only 371 million units. In the second quarter of 2012, Microsoft’s Windows phones accounted for only 3.5 percent of global smartphone sales.

In an attempt to extend its market share in the mobile space, Microsoft developed Windows RT, a specific version of Windows 8 for ARM-based tablets. RT is simply an initialism and does not stand for “real-time.” Windows RT is designed to run on ARM devices and runs only apps available through the Windows Store or preloaded with the OS. Windows RT cannot run existing 32- and 64-bit applications because the OS does not support the Intel architecture. Additionally, developers cannot recompile these applications for the ARM processor because the OS limits necessary access to the Win32 API.

One of the ARM devices running Windows RT is the Microsoft Surface tablet, which is Microsoft’s new entry into the mobile market. The ARM-based Surface released at the same time as Windows 8. A second version, the Intel-based Surface Pro, will be released later and run Windows 8 Pro.

Above: Data Dashboard for LabVIEW, shown here on an iPad, is also available on Windows 8 devices through the Windows Store.

Already available for iOS and Android, NI Data Dashboard for LabVIEW gives you the ability to both view and manipulate your systems from customized and portable dashboards on your tablet. Data Dashboard for LabVIEW is also available for Windows 8 devices through the Windows Store.

The Microsoft OS Support Life Cycle

Microsoft will stop support for Windows XP in 2014 and Windows 7 in 2020. Among National Instruments customers on Microsoft operating systems, Windows 7 holds over 65 percent of the user base just over three years after its release. NI currently expects to end support for Windows XP and Vista in 2016.

NI Product Compatibility

National Instruments has been working with preview versions of Windows 8 to determine compatibility between the new OS and its hardware, software, and drivers. In general, existing Windows 7 applications should continue to function in Windows 8, but hardware drivers may need updating. Information on the minimum required versions for compatibility with Windows 8 is included online at ni.com/windows8. Also on the web, you can find more information about some known compatibility issues with Windows 8 and how to resolve those problems.

Visit ni.com/windows8 for more information about how Windows 8 affects your test and measurement systems.

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