Microsoft is promising that a number of new technologies and automated features in Windows 8 will make it easier for users of mobile devices to manage and use mobile broadband 3G and 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Windows 8, for example, will prioritize Wi-Fi networks over broadband whenever a preferred Wi-Fi network is available, according to a posting on Microsoft's "Building Windows 8" blog. The new operating system also will provide a new "airplane mode" feature for disabling all radios with one click -- a common function on most mobile phones, but new for PCs.
Microsoft has "re-engineered the wireless networking stack to optimize it for both mobile broadband and Wi-Fi networks," wrote Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, in an introduction to the blog, written by Billy Anders, a group program manager on the Windows 8 devices and networking team.
Microsoft has "fully developed and integrated mobile broadband as a first-class connectivity experience within Windows – right alongside Wi-Fi," Anders said. While Windows 7 offered mobile broadband, using those capabilities often involved a frustrating process of locating and installing third-party device drivers and software.
Windows 8 includes a hardware specification, designed in conjunction with mobile operators and mobile broadband hardware partners, which device makers can incorporate into their hardware. Windows 8 includes a mobile broadband class driver that will work with all third-party devices and eliminates the need for additional device driver software, Anders said.
The new operating system supports the Mobile Broadband Interface Model specification standard approved last year by the USB Implementers Forum.
The "airplane mode" in Windows 8 makes it easier to manage connections and radios, according to Anders, including turning individual radios on and off or disabling all radios at once, such as when a user has to power down a device before takeoff on a commercial flight.
Windows 8 also provides a number of tools for avoiding "bill shock" when mobile device users download too much data and exceed contracted data usage allotments.
A "default behavior" in Windows 8 will prioritize Wi-Fi networks over broadband whenever one of a user's preferred Wi-Fi networks is available. Wi-Fi networks are generally faster, have lower latency and have higher limits on data downloads (or are free) than broadband.
Windows 8 also will maintain an ordered list of preferred networks based on a user's connect and disconnect actions. It also supports popular Wi-Fi hotspot authentication types such as WISPr (Wireless Internet Services Provider roaming) and SIM/AKA/AKA Prime (a SIM-based authentication). And when a device is resuming operations from standby mode, the operating system can reconnect to a Wi-Fi network in about a second, according to the blog.
The Windows 8 task manager will help users gauge how much data a particular application is consuming on metered and non-metered networks, making it easier to identify which apps are consuming the most bandwidth.
And a new set of developer APIs within the ConnectionCost class of the Windows.Networking.Connectivity namespace will help developers build Windows 8 applications that "behave well" on metered networks, Anders said. Use of the APIs will be required for developers to sell Metro-style applications through the Windows App Store.
Microsoft is scheduled to ship a beta release of Windows 8 in February and the production release is expected later this year, likely in the fall.