updated 06:50 pm EST, Fri January 20, 2012
Optimizes Wi-Fi and Mobile Broadband operations
Microsoft has provided details on how it has optimized its upcoming Windows 8 OS for mobile and wireless networking. Integrated into the new architecture are tools to automatically toggle between mobile broadband and Wi-Fi networks based on data transmission costs, seamlessly switch between networks without interruption, and view diverse networks, including Wi-Fi, mobile broadband like 3G and 4G, and Bluetooth, from a unified interface. The new Windows can even stay connected to a network even when the PC is in a low power state such as sleep-mode or when the screen is turned off.
The first step Microsoft has taken is to more closely integrate both Wi-Fi and mobile broadband control and functionality into Windows 8 is by eliminating the need to install discrete drivers. To do this, Microsoft has embedded a broadband class driver that works with most devices. It doesn't need to load and activates as soon as a device is connected to the computer.
Windows 8 now also natively supports connecting to a network, managing radios, and configuring connection settings. Needed management information is presented on a single consolidated screen. Microsoft has even provided an "airplane" mode switch that can turn all radios on and off at once. This has been built into mobile phones for years, but the company is now bringing this capability to PCs.
The new OS has the ability to prioritize network access based on a user's behavior and preferences. Windows 8 uses this to create an ordered list of networks and seamlessly switches between them to a higher ordered network as soon as it becomes available.
Microsoft has streamlined the Wi-Fi connection process. It now takes about a second to reconnect a PC to a wireless network from standby mode. The company has accomplished this by optimizing operations in the networking stack, and by providing the network list, connection information, and other information to the PC's Wi-Fi adapter.
On cellular, if a device is unlocked and supports carrier switching, Windows 8 offers native support to select and connect to any supported carrier from within the Windows UI.
Windows 8 includes support for popular Wi-Fi hotspot authentication types, including WISPr (Wireless Internet Services Provider roaming), EAP-SIM/AKA/AKA Prime (SIM-based authentication), and EAP-TTLS (most often in university campuses). Windows manages the authentication when the computer comes within range of a Wi-Fi network that uses one of these methods. This provides the same automatic behavior at a public Wi-Fi hotspot as at home or the office.
Microsoft has changed the way the OS downloads Windows Updates. When automatic updating is enabled, Windows Update will defer the background download of all updates, except critical security updates, until connected to a non-metered network, such as a home broadband connection.
A final feature of the new Windows OS for wireless environments is that the Task Manager will provides greater detail on know how much data each app has consumed on the network. It shows the approximate active and historical data consumption of any process over metered and non-metered networks.
Windows 8 is expected by most to ship in the second half of 2012, and most of the new wireless features are oriented towards tablets that should arrive side-by-side with the launch.
Wireless settings & airplane mode
Wi-Fi reconnection: Windows 7 and Windows 8 compared
Selecting from available carriers
Windows 8 portal entrance to networks
Data consumption information in the Windows Task Manager