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Exploring Windows 8: What We Learned at TechEd Europe

ITProPortal has just returned from Amsterdam, having attended TechEd Europe 2012 events and Microsoft's Exploring Windows 8 workshop. We are now in the process of conducting independent testing and composing reviews on selected aspects of the next generation OS, so stay tuned.

Until then, we offer you a run-down of the five things that stood out most yesterday - for more, make sure to check out our in-depth reflections on Wednesday's events.

It's Fast

Some of yesterday's demos might have seemed a bit reductionist – I now know half a dozen optimised ways to run my finger across a touch-screen - but the one illustrating Windows 8's boot time was genuinely eye-catching. Eight seconds from cold to start screen is immensely impressive, especially considering the task was completed on a notebook device running an old generation Sandy Bridge processor. Sure, I heard "fast and fluid" uttered one too many times for my liking - but in this case it's a spot on assessment.

Lucky Charms

It might take a while for the name to catch on, but the Charm Bar nevertheless looks like a significant improvement over the traditional Start menu. Like the replacement of folders with app groups on the main UI, Microsoft's stripped down approach is beneficial from organisational and access perspectives. Crucially, Charm Bar foregrounds Device management: cross-device connectivity is one of Windows 8's main selling points and this makes it easier than ever to project media externally via an Xbox or power up a multi-monitor work station. The Share function is also attractive.

Enterprise Features Aren't Just Lip Service

Many of the important UI changes offered by Windows 8 are noticeably pitched at the consumer market, yet the refreshed software's enterprise package is also attention grabbing. Windows Store makes downloading custom-built, Metro-style business apps a mere formality, with programs for expense management and project approval among those currently knocking about on the Release Preview. But perhaps most significantly, Secure Boot puts into place the kind of architectually neutral platform necessary to combat new generation malware, with the public key infrastructure allowing firmware images to validate prior to execution.

This Time, It's Personal 

Responding to user feedback, Microsoft's latest OS has more scope for customisation than ever. Some personalisation features are nice but relatively trivial, like the ability to set different wallpaper images on multi-monitor set ups. Others, by way of contrast, are hugely relevant: users can create app-based relationships linking their files to relevant services for easy sharing and uploading, meaning Word documents can be automatically associated with native cloud service SkyDrive in the workplace, and images with Facebook at home.

Hybrids Are The Future

Not specifically Windows 8 related, but it's something I found myself thinking time and again over the last couple of days. More than that, it's a development that the latest Microsoft computing eco-system will complement beautifully. Tablets may be predominantly entertainment and convenience-led devices at the moment - not to mention what my mum uses because she can't get her head around full-on computing - but the reality is changing fast and the new generation of slate/notebook hybrids merge consumer and enterprise worlds in an empowering manner. Just like the OS itself, come to think of it.