Leaked slides provide early glimpse at Windows 8

Top secret

Microsoft looks like it's aiming to take a leaf out of Apple's book with the next version of Windows, if a series of leaked slides are to be believed.

The slides, posted on an Italian Windows blog, are far from a cast-iron roadmap for Microsoft's next operating system whose development is still in its infancy but nonetheless reveal some interesting pointers as to what we might see in the final OS.

Windows 8 will focus on delivering user simplicity on a wider range of hardware, with particular emphasis on the tablet form factor, while the notion of a Microsoft app store also receives prominent mention.

Much of the early rationale behind Windows 8's development appears focused on following the example being set by a clearly dominant Apple. Microsoft directly admits as much in a slide labelled "How Apple does it: A virtuous cycle", which identifies simplicity as a key selling point associated with its long-standing computing rival.

"Apple brand is known for high quality, uncomplicated, it just works'," one of the slides reads. "This is something people will pay for."

Microsoft sees face recognition and touch screen integration being integrated more deeply into the OS, allowing instant face recognition-led user account switching, for example

Another slide reveals a Windows app store that would provide a cloud-based hub for users to access free and paid-for software downloads, both from Microsoft itself and third parties and across all devices running the software. Channel partners can look forward to "flexible licensing and monetisation" and "sustainable post-sale revenue", though the slide makes no mention of how Microsoft plans to achieve this.

Continuing the theme of simplicity, Microsoft is making reduced start-up times a priority too and Windows 8 will see the introduction of a "Reset" button, which will instantly roll back the computer's settings to factory settings without losing any data added since.

The slides date from the three-day Ecosystem Forum II event in April, and while by all accounts they do appear to be genuine, the slides themselves emphasise that the concepts they cover are intended as discussion topics and "not a commitment".

The first Windows 8 betas are expected to appear in mid-2011.