Back in 2011, I made a series of educated guesses about what we could expect from Windows 8. At the time, there were almost no concrete details available about the new operating system, and I had no inside information. Now that Windows 8 is about to be released, I thought it might be fun to look back at my predictions and see how I did.
1: ARM Support
This one was kind of a gimme. Microsoft had announced that Windows 8 would run on ARM long before I compiled my list of predictions. Technically, however, it isn't Windows 8 that runs on ARM, but rather a Windows 8 variant called Windows RT.
2: Separation from the server
My second prediction was that Microsoft might have to get away from developing Windows desktop and Windows client in parallel. My reasoning was that the two operating systems were becoming too different, especially with Windows 8 beginning to support ARM processors. Obviously I got this prediction dead wrong. Microsoft designed Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 as a part of the same development cycle.
3: OS on a diet
For as long as I can remember, people have complained that Windows is an overly bloated operating system. In fact, one of the reasons why Windows Vista never caught on was that it was bloated and ran slowly. My prediction was that Microsoft was going to dramatically reduce the size of the Windows 8 operating system. I based the prediction on the idea that the OS would have to run on PCs, ARM devices (such as tablets and phones), and run from a USB flash drive.
We won't know for sure how large Windows 8 will be until it is released. But I decided to compare the contents of the Windows folder on a machine running Windows 7 Ultimate against the same folder on a machine running the Windows 8 Release Preview. The Windows 7 machine's Windows folder consumed 21.25 GB of space. That same folder on a Windows 8 machine consumed 10.94 GB of space.
It is worth noting that Microsoft's stated system requirements for the Windows 8 release preview are 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit) of disk space. These are identical to the system requirements for Windows 7.
4: Goodbye to 32-bit support
Pretty much every computer that's being sold today includes a 64-bit CPU, and this has been the case for quite some time. So I predicted that Windows 8 would not run on 32-bit PCs.
Although I haven't heard any official confirmation, it seems that Windows 8 will be available in 64-bit and 32-bit editions after all. The public betas have all been available for both 64-bit and 32-bit systems. I have to admit that Microsoft really disappointed me with this one. I thought that we had surely moved past the days of 32-bit computing. On the upside, at least consumers with older systems may still be able to take advantage of the new operating system if they choose.
5: Virtual plugins
My fifth prediction needs a little bit of explaining. I said that Windows 7 was actually a model for Windows 8 in some ways. As you will recall, Microsoft offers something called Windows XP mode in some editions of Windows 7. With Windows XP mode, Windows XP runs as a virtual machine, but in a rather unique way. Users can either use the Windows XP desktop or they can run applications transparently through the Windows 7 desktop, even though those applications are actually running on Windows XP.
My prediction was that Microsoft would use the same model for Windows 8. I thought that instead of providing backward compatibility to legacy operating systems within the Windows a kernel, Microsoft would create virtual instances of legacy operating systems that function as plugins to Windows 8.
Microsoft chose not to design Windows 8 in this way. Instead, it is including Hyper-V in the desktop operating system so that users may use it to run virtual machines.
6: Heavy reliance on the cloud
My sixth prediction was that Windows 8 would be heavily focused on the cloud. After all, over the past couple of years Microsoft has gone all-in with its investment in cloud technology. I predicted that Windows 8 would enable cloud applications appear to users as if they are installed and running locally.
Actually, I feel almost guilty for making this prediction because it was a bit of a no-brainer. It's also one of the few predictions I got correct. Microsoft is even referring to Windows 8 as a "cloud-enabled OS."
7: Native support for virtualized apps
My seventh prediction was that Windows 8 would feature native support for sandboxed applications. For example, I predicted that Internet Explorer would run in a sandboxed environment as a way of preventing malicious Web sites from infecting the system.
But rather than designing Internet Explorer to run as a sandboxed virtual application, Microsoft introduced Enhanced Protected Mode and a number of other new security features. One of the big reasons why Microsoft decided not to completely sandbox Internet Explorer was that it wanted to preserve Internet Explorer's ability to interact with other desktop applications.
8: A bigger distinction between the consumer and the enterprise versions
My eighth prediction was that Microsoft would make the professional version of Windows 8 small and lightweight but would load up the consumer version with lots of extras that aren't found in the professional version.
In actuality, Microsoft is making a big distinction between the various versions of Windows 8 and Windows RT, but aside from the fact that Windows RT will include Microsoft Office preinstalled, it is the Windows 8 Enterprise Edition that will see the vast majority of the features that aren't included in other editions. For more details, see this feature comparison chart.
9: Hardware to drive software sales
My ninth prediction was that Microsoft would use support for specialized hardware to woo customers back to PC environments. I fully expected Windows 8 to have native support for the Kinect sensor, for example. Even though I seem to have gotten that prediction wrong, one could say that Microsoft has used hardware to drive sales in the form of Microsoft Surface tablets.
10: A new name
My final prediction was that the operating system would not be called Windows 8. Every few years, Microsoft's marketing team likes to switch things up and rename products, and it just seemed like it was time for Windows to be rebranded. From a PC perspective, I got this prediction wrong. However, the ARM version of Windows 8 was named Windows RT (for Windows Run Time), so I guess I wasn't completely off base.
I think that the one thing this article proves is that I am not a psychic. By my count, two of my predictions came true, at least four of my predictions were very, very wrong, and the others fell into a grey area somewhere in between.
How about you?
How well does Windows 8 map to your early predictions and expectations? Are you pleasantly surprised or disappointed? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.
Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.