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Windows 8: Nine unanswered questions about the new OS

Jared Newman | Oct. 12, 2012
Despite the looming October 26 launch date of Windows 8, a handful of questions about Microsoft's next operating system remain. Some are big, some are small, but all should be relevant to hard-core PC users who have decided to take the Windows 8 plunge, as well as to people who plan to buy new Windows 8 hardware.

Will other Microsoft apps, such as Paint and Movie Maker, go modern?

Microsoft will preload Windows 8 with several of its own tablet-optimized apps, such as Bing, Sports, Finance, and Weather. Even Solitaire received a makeover for the new touch interface in Windows 8.

Still, some apps, including Paint and Movie Maker, haven't crossed over from the desktop. This is somewhat surprising, considering that Apple's content-creation apps, such as iPhoto and iMovie, have become big selling points for the iPad.

Will Microsoft port its own apps, or will it rely on third parties to fill in the gaps? That's a critical question, considering that the Windows Store, Microsoft's app portal, is woefully understocked. If Microsoft really wants consumers to take its app ecosystem seriously, it should ensure that all of its key, legacy desktop software products come in modern-style touch versions too.

What's the future for version upgrades?

By fusing tablet and desktop into a single operating system, Microsoft has created a dilemma for future upgrades: Will they be free, as they are on iOS and Android, or paid, as they have been with past versions of Windows and with Apple's OS X? And for that matter, how often will Microsoft deliver upgrades with new features, rather than simple bug fixes?

The pace of software innovation has sped up in recent years, so Microsoft's tradition of issuing three-year upgrades for Windows may no longer suffice. Is this the last of the showstopping updates for Windows, as Microsoft moves toward yearly iterations? The answer has important ramifications for anyone considering the upgrade-or-wait question with respect to Windows 8.

What will Windows 8 cost in six months?

Until January 31, upgrades to Windows 8 Professional will cost $40 for users of Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. After that, Microsoft hasn't said what the price of Windows 8 upgrades will be. Will users have to pay for a full retail copy, rumored to cost $100 and up, or will a cheaper upgrade option remain available?

How much will Surface cost? And what are its display resolution and battery life?

Four months ago, Microsoft shocked the tech world by announcing its own Windows tablets, known as Surface. These tablets are unlike anything other manufacturers have shown so far, with integrated kickstands and magnetized screen covers that double as ultrathin keyboards.

Since the announcement, however, Microsoft has been less than forthcoming about some key Surface details, such as exact pricing, display resolution, and what type of battery life to expect.

On the pricing front, the company did say that the Windows RT version of Surface would have a price comparable to that of other tablets, while the Windows 8 Pro version would cost about the same as Ultrabooks. So that's the official word. As far as the unofficial word, at least one estimate for the full bill-of-materials cost suggests that Surface RT's actual cost is a little over $300, while Surface Pro could cost as much as $640 to build. From there, you could hazard a guess at the final retail pricing, but no one knows how much margin Microsoft wants to make on its first in-house tablet adventure.


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