Microsoft announces new features for Windows 8.1

Last month, Microsoft announced that they have sold over 100,000,000 Windows 8 licenses. With Windows 8.1 (Blue) scheduled for release later this year, there's a lot of questions on what will be included in the update. Today at TechEd, Microsoft explained their focus for the user interface and how they're planning on improving security with the new release.

Microsoft is focusing on is letting the user work in whatever environment they're most comfortable. For example, if you're working in the desktop, and want to open an app, it should be able to run on the desktop. Specifically, you "leave the desktop only when you want to, and see the desktop only when you have to." Microsoft also pointed out that Bing is heavily integrated into the search for Windows 8.1, showing you results from both the Internet as well as from your own machine.

Another interesting feature that Windows 8.1 will provide is the ability to use the device as a hotspot. Although many phones give users the ability to tether, you will instead be able to have multiple users connect to your Windows machine and share the Internet that way, and according to Microsoft, users will be able to have 8-9 connections before noticing a performance degradation.

During the keynote, Microsoft touched on some of the steps Windows 8.1 will take to improve security, and then went into more detail later in the day. They started by talking about the fact that Windows 8 is already far more secure than the company's predecessors. For example, Windows 7 is six times more likely to be compromised, and Windows XP is roughly 20 times more likely. That said, Microsoft isn't resting on their laurels, especially as it relates to the enterprise, and instead of playing defense, are now going on the offensive to battle malware.

In addition to core system and browser hardening, and running Windows Store Apps within a sandbox, Microsoft has an interesting concept called "Provable PC Health." Although the name is expected to change, the idea is that your system will be checked against a known good install in order to identify whether any malicious changes have been made. Although there were no details, we suspect that it will work similar to running an MD5 checksum against all of the core system files, and compare them to the known good MD5 checksums, similar to how a tool like Tripwire works. In short, a lot of security is being pushed into the cloud.

After years of jokes about Windows security, it's nice to see that the company is tackling the problem head-on.

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I am really puzzled by what is new in Windows 8.1, and I am coming to this conclusion:

1- It has all the patches and updates to Windows 8 (aka service pack 1)
2- It has a few more entries in the settings app, and an icon instead of the start button.
3- It has the network sharing (the one in Windows 7) back

Did I miss anything else?

"See the Start screen only when you need it"
"Enter the Start screen only when you want to"

Thats whats the slide is saying, right?

Use device as hotspot?
No need Virtual Router Plus anymore!
Resurface of the function from Win7 which they hid in Win8.

iron2000 said,
"See the Start screen only when you need it"
"Enter the Start screen only when you want to"

Thats whats the slide is saying, right?

Let's hope.

"After years of jokes about Windows security, it's nice to see that the company is tackling the problem head-on."

Really? They have been "tackling the problem head-on" for years. What is it with this continuing myth that Windows is less secure or that Microsoft doesn't care about security?

Stop believing the anti-hype and do some research.

-Forjo

Forjo said,
"After years of jokes about Windows security, it's nice to see that the company is tackling the problem head-on."

Really? They have been "tackling the problem head-on" for years. What is it with this continuing myth that Windows is less secure or that Microsoft doesn't care about security?

Stop believing the anti-hype and do some research.


You're only as strong as your weakest link, and as long as tools like Flash and Acrobat can compromise your system, you're not secure. By stepping up and "going on the offensive," as they're saying, with tools that actively check your machine based on a cloud-based image, they're tackling the idea of security head-on in a way that hasn't happened in the past.

Fezmid said,

You're only as strong as your weakest link, and as long as tools like Flash and Acrobat can compromise your system, you're not secure. By stepping up and "going on the offensive," as they're saying, with tools that actively check your machine based on a cloud-based image, they're tackling the idea of security head-on in a way that hasn't happened in the past.
No offense.... but they've been taking security seriously since Vista. Windows 7 was another leap forward and Windows 8 yet again. If you're only as strong as your weakest link than all OS's are not taking security seriously.

Glorified writing is glorified.

MrHumpty said,
No offense.... but they've been taking security seriously since Vista. Windows 7 was another leap forward and Windows 8 yet again. If you're only as strong as your weakest link than all OS's are not taking security seriously.

Glorified writing is glorified.

I'm happy that someone gives Windows Vista the credit it deserves. Thank you.

With that said, I would describe Windows 7 as a *step* forward in security (though it actually went backwards in some areas by default). Windows 8 is much better.

Ian William said,

I'm happy that someone gives Windows Vista the credit it deserves. Thank you.

With that said, I would describe Windows 7 as a *step* forward in security (though it actually went backwards in some areas by default). Windows 8 is much better.

If I could remember all the reasons I'd list them. Vista was a huge leap over XP. So in that context I'd agree Win7 was a step or building on that leap. Win8 is yet another step forward a big one at that.

I sure am tired of every Windows 8 ad being just another snapshot of the start screen. Microsoft is doing themselves a disservice by giving the OS a stupidly limited image in marketing.

Wouldn't integrating Bing into the systems Search function cause the EU to go into "Lets fine a s**t out of Microsoft" mode?

virtorio said,
Wouldn't integrating Bing into the systems Search function cause the EU to go into "Lets fine a s**t out of Microsoft" mode?

Search is considered full of "healthy competition". The EU has already voiced disinterest in the Bing integration.

virtorio said,
Wouldn't integrating Bing into the systems Search function cause the EU to go into "Lets fine a s**t out of Microsoft" mode?

I'm sure Microsoft would love to include Google, but the thought of that, I'm sure, would give Larry Page a brain aneurysm.

Out of the box, yes, Windows 7 will be secure. I was disappointed last week when a student brought his Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit and the entire OS was compromised. Couldn't use System Restore in Normal or Safe Mode. Shortcuts and executable were taken over by the malware. I tried running Norton Power Eraser using Safe Mode with Networking, it blocked it too. So, the system is basically, hosed. To be honest though, a clueless user, downloading pirated stuff, having classmates plug their infected stuff into the systems, I'm not surprised. At the same time, a lot of the security in Windows 7 never came through, ASLR, Heap Stack Protection, UAC, System Restore, IE Protected Mode, DEP. Such is life. Its ultimately up to the user. I have several systems, running very old installs of Windows 7 and none have been infected. So, it all comes down to the user.

One the occasion that I have to help someone clean up their system of malware, they're usually either running no security software, or running Microsoft Security Essentials.

Mr. Dee said,
a lot of the security in Windows 7 never came through

Because it seems he bypassed it all. The computer can't say no, when the user says yes.

Dot Matrix said,

Because it seems he bypassed it all. The computer can't say no, when the user says yes.


As Warwagon says : You can't fix stupid!

If a user is going to press "Yes" at the box clearly marked "Do you want to run myhotpic.jpg.exe" then quite frankly, the user gets what they deserve.

Dot Matrix said,
Is there a source for all this, or is this just all being made up off two slides?

The source is a press briefing I attended at TechEd. I included the two slides as an illustration, but it was a 45 minute discussion that I boiled down to cover these topics.

Fezmid said,

The source is a press briefing I attended at TechEd. I included the two slides as an illustration, but it was a 45 minute discussion that I boiled down to cover these topics.

Then your article needs clarified. The second paragraph isn't clear enough to detail what you're trying to say.

What kind of apps are we running? Desktop? Metro? Is this a hint at a Metro version of Office coming to Windows 8.1? What's going on here?

if you're working in the desktop, and want to open an app, it should be able to run on the desktop

Wait, what? Can someone please, please elaborate on this statement.

Try going to Desktop (which I'm always in). Then open up a JPG file. By default, it'll run the Metro full-screen photo viewing app, which I dislike (though u can change the default app that opens it)

:: Lyon :: said,
Try going to Desktop (which I'm always in). Then open up a JPG file. By default, it'll run the Metro full-screen photo viewing app, which I dislike (though u can change the default app that opens it)

While this is a bit annoying, the first time you open each file type it will ask you which program should be default. Just select a desktop program.

Yes it does seem you don't read much.

A lot of Windows 8.1's revealed changes are focused on tidying up the need to move between the two interfaces.

"For example, if you're working in the desktop, and want to open an app, it should be able to run on the desktop."

Sorry, but Modern Apps don't run on the desktop. They're more than likely referencing snapped apps, with the desktop being one of the apps currently snapped on screen. Unless, you're talking about desktop apps, in which case nothing as changed from before. I can stay comfortably in both the desktop and Metro for extended periods of time, seeing how I'm able to pin apps to the taskbar.

Edited by Dot Matrix, Jun 4 2013, 3:21am :

Dot Matrix said,
Sorry, but Modern Apps don't run on the desktop.

Actually they do with modern mix app so Microsoft could let everyone do it effortlessly

CaptainBeno said,

Actually they do with modern mix app so Microsoft could let everyone do it effortlessly

Which would require some sort of virtualization, but naively, Modern apps have a different codebase. They weren't designed to be run on the desktop environment.

Dot Matrix said,
"For example, if you're working in the desktop, and want to open an app, it should be able to run on the desktop."

Sorry, but Modern Apps don't run on the desktop. They're more than likely referencing snapped apps, with the desktop being one of the apps currently snapped on screen. Unless, you're talking about desktop apps, in which case nothing as changed from before. I can stay comfortably in both the desktop and Metro for extended periods of time, seeing how I'm able to pin apps to the taskbar.

I think the idea is to decide which app to open based on which environment you are in. Opening a photo in the desktop version of Explorer shouldn't launch the Modern photo viewer. Opening a photo in the Modern file browser shouldn't open the desktop image preview.

Stetson said,

I think the idea is to decide which app to open based on which environment you are in. Opening a photo in the desktop version of Explorer shouldn't launch the Modern photo viewer. Opening a photo in the Modern file browser shouldn't open the desktop image preview.

My thoughts exactly.

Dot Matrix said,

Which would require some sort of virtualization, but naively, Modern apps have a different codebase. They weren't designed to be run on the desktop environment.


That's simply BS. Metro apps communicate with Win32 like all programs do. The only difference is that instead of directly calling Win32 functions they are using WinRT which is nothing but a COM-based wrapper…

Agreed MFH, however calling WinRT "nothing but a COM-based wrapper", is like calling an Aston Martin "just a car". There is way more than wrapping happening on the WinRT level that previous wrappers (like .NET) just couldn't provide. Not wanting to be too technical, but I had to mention that ;-)

vhaakmat said,
Agreed MFH, however calling WinRT "nothing but a COM-based wrapper", is like calling an Aston Martin "just a car". There is way more than wrapping happening on the WinRT level that previous wrappers (like .NET) just couldn't provide. Not wanting to be too technical, but I had to mention that ;-)

On a binary level there is absolutely nothing special about WinRT. It literally is COM. The only change is that they introduced IInspetable which allows access to .NET-like Metadata. Note though that this metadata is actually not used by all language "projections" (aka. Bindings).

In fact IInspectable is nothing but a safe replacement to the horrible IDispatch-interface from OLE...

And yes from an implementation perspective WinRT is nothing but a Win32-wrapper (as are/were core parts of .NET as a matter of fact).