I’ve been using Windows 7 for quite a while now, and it’s an impressive piece of work. But there are plenty of improvements that can be made — here are some first thoughts on five things I’d like to see in Windows 8.

Include better networking support

I’m a big fan of the Network and Sharing Center and the network map introduced by Windows Vista, although I’m still not sold on Windows 7’s Homegroup networking feature. But both operating systems have one drawback — it’s still too tough to mix Linux, PCs, and Macs on a Windows network. Forget finger pointing at which operating system is at fault. Microsoft should make sure that Windows 8 immediately recognizes and works with both Linux and Mac OS X.

Offer true multimedia sharing at home

The TV as we know it will soon be dead. With sites like Hulu.com, and with Windows Media Center’s newfound ability to play Netflix movies, the PC has finally supplanted it. But watching media on a PC simply won’t cut it. There needs to be better ways to stream video and audio content to TVs, stereos, and other multimedia devices throughout a house. Yes, I know it can be done now — but it’s far from easy. It needs to be simple, and built directly into Windows.

Improve the task bar and task switching

The Windows 7 Mac OS X Dock-like task bar is far superior to previous versions of the task bar, doing double-duty as an application launcher and task switcher. But it’s still somewhat confusing to use; its two functions have yet to be perfectly integrated. Microsoft needs to work on that.

In addition, how about niftier ways to do task switching, so that you can open, arrange and hide windows in more ways?

Use built-in intelligence

Windows should learn from me over time how I use the operating system and adjust itself accordingly. It already does this to a certain extent, by pre-loading components of commonly used apps when you start up. But Windows should be even smarter. If it notices over time that I use certain Control Panel applets, but not others, it should bring the common applets to the forefront and hide the others, for example. It should examine my Internet connection and the way I commonly use it, and adjust the networking plumbing accordingly to give me top performance. There are plenty of other ways it can learn from me as well and adjust how it looks and works.

Run Mac OS X

Mac OS X let you run Windows as a dual-boot option — Microsoft should follow suit and do the same for Mac OS X. Yes, I know that this one is a pipe-dream for countless reasons, not the least of which is that Apple’s lawyers would be all over Microsoft in a Cupertino minute if Microsoft built this feature into Windows. But I can dream, can’t I?

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