Microsoft is promising that Windows 8 will look and sound better than its predecessor on any hardware because of a series of tweaks it's made to the operating system. In an extensive blog post, Media Platform and Technologies team group program manager Scott Manchester details what's going on behind the scenes with music and video playback. In many cases, that's changes in processing that can increase battery life or performance. Audio data, for example, will be batched up and processed in chunks, something Manchester says lets the CPU stay asleep for over 1 second rather than 10ms at a time and conserves battery.

Two more changes should also boost media playback. Microsoft is apparently adding a better adaptive bitrate system, delivering the first few frames of a given streaming video at a lower rate while it buffers. It's also using a new content mixing system. "Instead of mixing all audio content and sending the resulting (often incoherent) stream to the speakers, Windows can pause a stream when a second stream is played and when it makes sense to do so," Manchester writes. "In most cases, Windows prioritizes audio coming from the app that is in the foreground. When you move the app to the background, the system quiets the stream." In cases where you might actually want background sounds playing, the system can still play it at full volume. There's a lot more over here, if you're interested in what's going on behind the scenes in the latest Windows release.