Microsoft announced last week, August 1st that Windows 8 was going to RTM.  This is a very exciting time in education.  The Consumer Preview and Release Preview of Windows 8 have been the most widely and deeply tested releases of any product we have developed and delivered.  Later this month, our customers with Volume Licensing agreements will have the ability to download the final version of Windows 8 for internal testing, pilots and deployment.  There are numerous features built into Windows 8 that lend themselves to the classroom/education and demonstrate the
innovation of Windows 8.  A few of my personal favorites:

  • A new platform, the Windows Runtime (WinRT), to create a new type of application that runs in a secure sandbox, and facilitate easier sharing of data between them, or snap to the side of a widescreen display for multi-tasking. WinRT, which sits directly above the Windows kernel, allows for the use of various programming languages to code apps, including C#, VB.net, or HTML5 and JavaScript.

 

  • Windows-To-Go is a Windows 8 Enterprise feature that will allow users to create a bootable USB Flash drive with Windows 8 in it, including the user's programs, settings, and files.  It works with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, and both on legacy BIOS and UEFI firmware, However at this time it does require a USB 3.0 stick.  In addition to that, the system will pause if the USB drive is removed, and will resume operation if the drive is returned within 60 seconds of removal.  Think BYOD devices that districts or higher education institutions can now provide USB sticks as needed to students with their Windows 8 image desktop environment pre-configured for anytime/anywhere access.

 

  • Windows 8 features an extensively redesigned user interface incorporating its Metro design language, optimized for touchscreens as well as mice and keyboards. A new "Start screen", similar to the one in Windows Phone 7, includes live application tiles.

 

  • Windows 8 features a new lock screen, which includes a date and time display, along with the ability to display notifications from apps. Two new login methods optimized for touch screens are also available, including a four-digit PIN, or a "picture password"; which uses allows the use of certain gestures performed on a selected picture to login. This is excellent for some of the lower grades where students have a difficult time remembering their alpha numeric password but can more easily remember a picture password.

 

  • Windows 8 will have built-in support of USB 3.0 for better power management and longer battery life.

 

  • Windows 8 will support System on a Chip (SoC) architectures, including ARM-based systems.

 

  • Windows 8 will also include Hyper-V virtualization software. Previously only offered in Windows Server, Hyper-V will now be available in client versions of Windows for the first time. The system requirements for Hyper-V are a 64-bit processor, a 64-bit version of Windows 8, and a minimum of 4 GB of RAM. Hyper-V also requires a 64-bit system that has Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), a feature that helps with memory management.

 

  • Windows 8 has short boot times, in part because it saves the kernel’s memory to the hard disk on shutdown (similar to the existing hibernate option) and reloads it on start up. Also because of support for many cores during boot.  Leaves more time for teaching and less time waiting for the OS to boot.

 

  • Windows 8 will support the UEFI secure boot feature. This will enable a new foundation for an architecturally neutral approach to platform and firmware security. It is based on (PKI) process to validate firmware images before they are allowed to execute. A secure boot helps reduce the risk of boot loader attacks.

 

  • Windows 8 offers a new VHD format, called .vhdx, which supports up to 16 terabytes of storage.

 

  • File Explorer features a new user interface for copying and moving files, offering both a simplified interface and an advanced interface for users to monitor the speed of the operations. Users now view all simultaneous file operations in one consolidated window, and can pause file operations in progress.  This is one of my personal favorites.  A new interface has also been introduced for managing file name collisions in a file operation, allowing users to easily control which conflicting files are copied.

 

  • File Explorer can now mount ISO, IMG, and VHD files as virtual drives through simple right-clicks or the Explorer toolbar.

 

  • New to Windows 8 are two new recovery functions, named Refresh and Reset, both of which make a complete restore easier than a re-installation. The former keeps all settings and files of the user intact and only reverses all changes to Windows files to its original state and removes all installed programs and apps. The latter deletes all files and effectively re-installs Windows, but without any additional user input such as agreeing to license  agreements or selecting a hard disk required. After a reset completes, the user will be asked for the product key and will then proceed to account creation.  This is perfect for a school lab scenario.

 

  • Family Safety will allow Administrators to monitor and restrict user activity via web filtering, application restriction, and computer usage time limits.  This is a great feature for 1:1 computing in
    elementary schools helping protect devices that are not domain joined or devices that will not have group policy applied.