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Microsoft's Windows 8 goals revealed

Fast-boot slate, cloud services

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Microsoft's successor to Windows 7 is taking shape - and that shape looks suspiciously like an iPad supplementing a diet of media with online services.

A set of Microsoft slides, apparently leaked online here and expanded here, have mapped out the company's design and feature goals for Windows 8.

Among those goals: Windows 8 works on a slate form factor in addition to the regular laptop and "all-in-one" PC, with Windows 8 complementing this new form factor by providing instant power on - or at least near instant.

Windows 8 slates will support touch and use facial recognition to pull up the users' profile - presumably application settings, documents and services.

Microsoft wants Windows 8 to feed users cloud services and let them download applications from a planned Windows 8 Store. So far, Microsoft's only been talking about marketplaces in relation to Windows Mobile and Zune service.

Among the other goals for Windows 8 are a "reset button" for use if - or more likely when - your PC begins to mysteriously slow down and performance begins to drag like a dog. Windows 8 will let you reset and retain your data.

The Windows 8 customer will reinstall applications by visiting Microsoft's Windows Store.

The reset button is a sign Microsoft is aware performance is of paramount importance to consumers and enthusiasts - two customer groups Microsoft has highlighted in its slides as its target users. It also suggests Microsoft feels it cannot stop the performance of Windows on PCs degrading over time, so it wants to give users an easy fix.

In a footnote to the slides, meanwhile, Internet Explorer 9 - Microsoft's companion browser - will be released to beta in August 2010.

Microsoft was unable to comment on the slides at the time of going to press.

In trying to differentiate Windows 8 from Apple, Microsoft said it plans to stress features for partners such as Windows 8's customization and the different form factors.

There are some interesting aspects to Windows 8, if the slides are genuine. Facial recognition being the biggest. This would suggest some overlap with software used in Project Natal - just don't let your cat or anything else with a face near the screen when you're trying to log on.

It's also significant that Microsoft's called out the slate as a third computing form factor while immediate-on start times are a continuation of a race to get Windows in more consumer devices. It's not a very exciting race to outside observers looking for feature sizzle, but it is a race.

The slides, though, also confirm a number of less positive aspects for Microsoft: that the company is becoming firmly entrenched in its role of taking innovation cues from other people like Apple and Ubuntu or is incapable of thinking beyond the present trends on product development.

Clearly, Microsoft's still playing it safe following the failed agenda-setting of Windows Vista.

Also, with Windows 8 Microsoft appears to be further confusing its device operating system story for those all-important partners. Windows 8 for slates will line up with Windows Embedded CE, Windows Embedded Compact 7 that's in community technology preview mode, and Windows Mobile 6.5 and the yet-to-be delivered Windows Mobile 7.0.

Choice is good, except when it's confusing.®

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