Windows 8 was ultimately succeeded by Windows 10 in July 2015. Support for RTM editions of Windows 8 ended on January 12, 2016, and with the exception of Windows Embedded 8 Standard users, all users are required to install the Windows 8.1 update. Mainstream support for the Embedded Standard edition of Windows 8 ended on July 10, 2018, and extended support ends on July 11, 2023.
Windows 8 development started before Windows 7 had shipped in 2009. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2011, it was announced that the next version of Windows would add support for ARM system-on-chips alongside the existing x86 processors produced by vendors, especially AMD and Intel. Windows division president Steven Sinofsky demonstrated an early build of the port on prototype devices, while Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the company's goal for Windows to be \"everywhere on every kind of device without compromise.\" Details also began to surface about a new application framework for Windows 8 codenamed \"Jupiter\", which would be used to make \"immersive\" applications using XAML (similarly to Windows Phone and Silverlight) that could be distributed via a new packaging system and a rumored application store.
Two milestone releases of Windows 8 and one of Windows Server 2012 leaked to the general public. Milestone 1, Build 7850, was leaked on April 12, 2011. It was the first build where the title of a window was written centered instead of aligned to the left. It was also probably the first appearance of the Metro-style font, and its wallpaper had the text shhh. let's not leak our hard work. However, its detailed build number reveals that the build was created on September 22, 2010. The leaked copy was Enterprise edition, with other editions leaking later. In 2020, it was discovered that Metro existed in this build, after enabling the 'Redpill'. The start screen was very primitive, being a white screen with gray tiles. The charms bar was also included, but was unusable. The OS still reads as \"Windows 7\". Milestone 2, Build 7955, was leaked on April 25, 2011. The traditional Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) was replaced by a new black screen, although it was later reverted to a different blue color. This build introduced a new ribbon in Windows Explorer. The \"Windows 7\" logo was temporarily replaced with text displaying \"Microsoft Confidential\". Both builds 7850 and 7955 leaked alongside Windows Server 2012 build 7959. On June 17, 2011, build 7989 64-bit edition was leaked. It introduced a new boot screen featuring the same Betta fish as the default Windows 7 Beta wallpaper, which was later replaced, and the circling dots as featured in the final (although the final version comes with smaller circling dots throbber). It also had the text Welcome below them, although this was scrapped. The boot screen was not new to this build though - it came from build 7973, a slightly earlier build. It is worth mentioning that most of these leaks \"hid\" the main Metro UI features that were to come in tweak known as Redlock in order to prevent relevant leaks. A patch named Redpill was necessary to reveal the new Metro UI as well as the redesigned Start Screen, Lock Screen and apps. Several applications have tried to replicate this patch as closely as possible, although one called Redlock is the most accurate, supporting the enabling of builds' Metro UI from 7814-8056. It also worked on the Developer Preview.
Relatively few changes were made from the Release Preview to the final version; these included updated versions of its pre-loaded apps, the renaming of Windows Explorer to File Explorer, the replacement of the Aero Glass theme from Windows Vista and 7 with a new flat and solid-color theme as seen in build 8432, and the addition of new background options for the Start screen, lock screen, and desktop. Prior to its general availability on October 26, 2012, updates were released for some of Windows 8's bundled apps, and a \"General Availability Cumulative Update\" (which included fixes to improve performance, compatibility, and battery life) was released on Tuesday, October 9, 2012. Microsoft indicated that due to improvements to its testing infrastructure, general improvements of this nature are to be released more frequently through Windows Update instead of being relegated to OEMs and service packs only.
Windows Explorer, which has been renamed File Explorer, now includes a ribbon in place of the command bar. File operation dialog boxes have been updated to provide more detailed statistics, the ability to pause file transfers, and improvements in the ability to manage conflicts when copying files. A new \"File History\" function allows incremental revisions of files to be backed up to and restored from a secondary storage device, while Storage Spaces allows users to combine different sized hard disks into virtual drives and specify mirroring, parity, or no redundancy on a folder-by-folder basis. For easier management of files and folders, Windows 8 introduces the ability to move selected files or folders via drag and drop from a parent folder into a subfolder listed within the breadcrumb hierarchy of the address bar in File Explorer.
Task Manager has been redesigned, including a new processes tab with the option to display fewer or more details of running applications and background processes, a heat map using different colors indicating the level of resource usage, network and disk counters, grouping by process type (e.g. applications, background processes and Windows processes), friendly names for processes and a new option which allows users to search the web to find information about obscure processes. Additionally, the Blue Screen of Death has been updated with a simpler and modern design with less technical information displayed.
Internet Explorer 10 is included as both a desktop program and a touch-optimized app, and includes increased support for HTML5, CSS3, and hardware acceleration. The Internet Explorer app does not support plugins or ActiveX components, but includes a variant of Adobe Flash Player that is optimized for touch and low power usage. Initially, Adobe Flash would only work on sites included on a \"Compatibility View\" whitelist; however, after feedback from users and additional compatibility tests, an update in March 2013 changed this behavior to use a smaller blacklist of sites with known compatibility issues instead, allowing Flash to be used on most sites by default. The desktop variant does not contain these limitations.
Several notable video game developers criticized Microsoft for making its Windows Store a closed platform subject to its own regulations, as it conflicted with their view of the PC as an open platform. Markus \"Notch\" Persson (creator of the indie game Minecraft), Gabe Newell (co-founder of Valve and developer of software distribution platform Steam), and Rob Pardo from Activision Blizzard voiced concern about the closed nature of the Windows Store. However, Tom Warren of The Verge stated that Microsoft's addition of the Store was simply responding to the success of both Apple and Google in pursuing the \"curated application store approach.\"
Reviews of the various editions of Windows 8 were mixed to negative. Tom Warren of The Verge said that although Windows 8's emphasis on touch computing was significant and risked alienating desktop users, he felt that Windows 8 tablets \"[make] an iPad feel immediately out of date\" due to the capabilities of the operating system's hybrid model and increased focus on cloud services. David Pierce of The Verge described Windows 8 as \"the first desktop operating system that understands what a computer is supposed to do in 2012\" and praised Microsoft's \"no compromise\" approach and the operating system's emphasis on Internet connectivity and cloud services. Pierce also considered the Start Screen to be a \"brilliant innovation for desktop computers\" when compared with \"folder-littered desktops on every other OS\" because it allows users to interact with dynamic information. In contrast, an ExtremeTech article said it was Microsoft \"flailing\" and a review in PC Magazine condemned the Metro-style user interface. Some of the included apps in Windows 8 were considered to be basic and lacking in functionality, but the Xbox apps were praised for their promotion of a multi-platform entertainment experience. Other improvements and features (such as File History, Storage Spaces, and the updated Task Manager) were also regarded as positive changes. Peter Bright of Ars Technica wrote that while its user interface changes may overshadow them, Windows 8's improved performance, updated file manager, new storage functionality, expanded security features, and updated Task Manager were still positive improvements for the operating system. Bright also said that Windows 8's duality towards tablets and traditional PCs was an \"extremely ambitious\" aspect of the platform as well, but criticized Microsoft for emulating Apple's model of a closed distribution platform when implementing the Windows Store.
In February 2014, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft would be lowering the price of Windows 8 licenses by 70% for devices that retail under US$250; alongside the announcement that an update to the operating system would allow OEMs to produce devices with as little as 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, critics felt that these changes would help Windows compete against Linux-based devices in the low-end market, particularly those running Chrome OS. Microsoft had similarly cut the price of Windows XP licenses to compete against the early waves of Linux-based netbooks. Reports also indicated that Microsoft was planning to offer cheaper Windows 8 licenses to OEMs in exchange for setting Internet Explorer's default search engine to Bing. Some media outlets falsely reported that the SKU associated with this plan, \"Windows 8.1 with Bing\", was a variant which would be a free or low-cost variant of Windows 8 for consumers using older versions of Windows. On April 2, 2014, Microsoft ultimately announced that it would be removing license fees entirely for devices with screens smaller than 9 inches, and officially confirmed the rumored \"Windows 8.1 with Bing\" OEM SKU on May 23, 2014. 153554b96e