While Microsoft was able to keep Windows 7 under a cone of silence for much of that product's development, its successor, Windows 8, has already suffered from its first major leak. And if the leaked internal Microsoft documents are any indication, Windows 8 will be a major release with big functional changes, some of which have been inspired by recent trends in the web and mobile markets.

Among the changes coming is a new application platform modeled after web apps. These next-generation Windows apps will be resolution-independent and will scale functionally depending on the capabilities of the underlying device. Microsoft will support these Windows 8 apps with a new apps store, currently called Windows Store, that will provide instant app installation and launching, and a new automatic setting-synchronization system so that apps always work the same and follow users from device to device.

Windows 8 will also ship with Internet Explorer (IE) 9; the documents say a public beta can be expected in August 2010, though the final release, which will happen before Windows 8, is to be determined. Concurrently, Microsoft will deliver Windows Live wave 5; the wave 4 release is shipping this year, with the final pieces in place by October.

There's a lot more to these leaked documents, and I've got a full write-up about the Windows 8 leak on the SuperSite for Windows if you want to learn more.