The big news this week regarding Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 software was that it features picture passwords, something that drew widespread attention but also some skepticism. Otherwise it was a week of rumors about what other features Microsoft's next big software release might contain and devices that might be coming out specifically to support it.
Microsoft has revealed a number of details on the Building Windows 8 blog regarding a new feature coming to Windows 8 dubbed "Picture Password". Upon hearing the name of the feature, you may assume (incorrectly) that it's some sort of integrated face recognition technique, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, the contents of the picture used for the login password are somewhat irrelevant. It's actually touch gestures overlayed over the photo that are the foundation of Windows 8's picture password feature.
QUIZ: 2011 Tech News Quiz
A Microsoft product manager says: "At its core, your picture password is comprised of two complementary parts. There is a picture from your picture collection and a set of gestures that you draw upon it. Instead of having you pick from a canned set of Microsoft images, you provide the picture, because it increases both the security and the memorability of the password. You get to decide the content of the picture and the portions that are important to you. Plus, you get to see a picture that is important to you just like many people do on their phone lock screen."
Picture password is a toy
The major downside of the picture password is that drawing a finger across a photo on a touch screen is easy to video record from a distance - making it relatively easy to compromise, says Kenneth Weiss, who invented SecurID tokens and now runs a three-factor authentication business called Universal Secure Registry. Designers of alpha-numeric passwords recognize this danger and have responded to it by having password characters appear as dots on the screen so the password can't be copied down.
"I think it's cute," he says. "I don't think it's serious security."
Windows 8 to drive touchscreen sales
According to unnamed sources, makers of LCD touchscreens are expecting a spike in sales toward the end of 2012 in part thanks to the expected release of Windows 8, which capitalizes on touchscreen navigation and commands, including the above-mentioned picture password. Screen makers ViewSonic and Asustek say they expect vendors will be eager to launch touch monitors next year, all according to Digitimes.
Nokia tablet for Windows 8 rumor
Nokia is rumored to be making a tablet designed for Windows 8 that it will unveil at Nokia Connection 2012 in mid-June. That's the extent of the rumor as repeated by Stefan Constantinescu at intomobile.com. He says he's relaying what was posted at the DGui blog, which has since been hacked and remains down. The source of this rumor? Someone with a Finnish IP address who claims to work for Finland-based Nokia.
Nokia tablet for Windows 8 concept design
Over at concept-phones.com a posting lays down specs for a Windows 8 tablet designed by someone identified as Cameron McKinnon. Here's a taste of what he calls for: "Nokia Tab uses a massive 14.3 inch display, a 12 megapixel camera with Xenon flash and Carl Zeiss lens, plus Microsoft Kinect motion capture support through a front camera. The gadget is 12mm in thickness, it has 1GB of memory, a 64GB or 128GB HDD and it will be available in WiFi or WiFi + 4G models, if it's ever made."
Windows 8 a Top Tech for 2012
IEEE Spectrum Magazine has listed Windows 8 among the Top Tech for 2012, alongside 4G wireless, 3D printers, Chinese supercomputers, LED lighting and electric vehicle charging stations. Of Windows 8, IEEE Spectrum writes: "Microsoft has so far been sidelined by the industry-wide move to mobile platforms, such as smart phones and tablets. This new operating system is the Redmond, Wash., company's last, best hope to turn things around."
Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.