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Windows 8 Secrets

Some months ago, Rafael Rivera and I began early work on our next book, tentatively titled Windows 8 Secrets. It's a tricky proposition, since Windows 8 is still over a year away, and Microsoft is working feverishly to prevent leaks, even going to the extreme extent of threatening to punish those who leak information with "potential civil and criminal liability." But we have great sources in and close to the software giant, and we've been the recipients of a not so steady stream of information for quite a while now.

But in recent weeks, the fanboy furor of Windows 8 has risen to a crescendo, with screenshots being leaked by the usual Russian and Chinese suspects and reposted without credit on the usual English-speaking blogs. And I'm getting emails wondering why I'm not writing that much about Windows 8 yet.

I need to be careful here, again to protect our sources, who in some cases are taking a career risk to even share information about Mr. Sinofsky's mysterious next product. But I'd ask you to reexamine what I have written about Windows 8 in this light. That is, I've phrased things I know to be facts as questions, and made product suggestions that I know, in many cases are actually in the works.

For example, in early January, I wrote that Microsoft may be working on a tile-based shell, new app model, and app store for Windows 8. They are, and you might go re-read that for details. Earlier, in June 2010, I wrote about many coming Windows 8 features, including new backup functionality now known to be called History Vault.

What we're sitting on currently is information about the tiered Windows 8 user interface, which will include the aforementioned tile-based interface for small form factor and other touch devices as well as Aero and Aero Lite UIs for mainstream PC class devices. We know that Windows 8 won't require new levels of hardware, like Vista, but will instead be like Windows 7 in that it won't advance the baselines requirements.

Recent leaked Windows 8 builds reveal the expected ribbon-based Explorer shell, the fast reset technology I first discussed last June (see link above), and other small improvements, but the new UIs have yet to be fully cracked, and most of the good stuff is still hidden. There is some less technical surface stuff. Tom Warren at Winrumors claims there are Metro UI elements in Windows 8, but I think this is a bit of stretch. In the builds we've seen, there are some Metro font treatments and a few simplified graphical elements. But you can't just add a font to a UI and call it Metro.

I look at this as more of a Metro-influenced UI than a port of Metro itself. If anything, it's fairer to say that Windows Phone 8 will simply be based on Windows 8, and that the UI in that OS will just be the Metro-like tiles UI that was previously discussed, not the other way around. But it's unclear where these things diverge, if at all.

Mary Jo Foley wonders if Microsoft isn't moving forward with IE 10 for Windows 8, thanks to its recent conversion to faster development cycles. Makes sense, though the documentation we saw previously suggests that IE 9 is the intended browser.

As for the development timeline, I already spelled out the important milestones last year, and nothing has changed: Private beta by PDC (Fall 2011), public beta by end of year, RC in first half of 2012, and final release by mid-2012. Foley does note that Microsoft is currently working on the so-called M3 ("milestone 3") pre-release versions, and that it will be completed by this summer. Yet many bloggers are excitedly claiming that M3 is happening soon, even this week. That's not what I've heard.

As for the book, Rafael and I are currently planning to start over from scratch and create something shorter and more easily digestible. This means, to me, a book that sits somewhere closer to the 430 pages of Windows Phone Secrets than the 1000+ pages of Windows 7 Secrets. If we get our way, it will be all new material, and will hopefully appear as closely to the release of the OS as is possible.

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