The system information module will make it easier for webmasters to collect the needed information in case they seek help in the forums.
The use of Ajax makes the handling of various modules far easier. You can drag and drop permissions or user information fields. And on the user side you can for example rate a content item using the Ratings hook using an Ajax function and not having to reload the whole page after rating it.
The new URL system add permalinks to .8 and make URLs nice and readable as you can already find them in other systems like Wordpress. The permalinks can be defined by the administrator and can be included into other modules. It already works for example with the News module and the Pages module. The Pages module in the Value Addons package is the successor of Mark's htmlpages.
Included into the new Theme module is a Theme generator that creates all the basic files and file entries you need to start working on a new layout.
A real enhancement compared to .7 can be found in the block control - Blocks can be dragged and dropped into place and various block setups can be set not only for modules but for single content items.
There are still 2 or 3 major bugs in the bugtracker that are already partly fixed but which must be fixed before RC2 can be releast. That shouldn't take too much time.
In his outlook on .9 Mark explained that all Postnuke releases after Feburary next year will at least require PHP 5.2 - so ask your hosting providers early enough for updates. The background of this decision is the move towards object orientation in the Postnuke codebase and the fact that PHP 5 is around long enough now to become standard.
The language system is the last big project on the roadmap towards Postnuke 1.0 - other PHP projects will be evaluated to find the best solution. In the same move the internationalisation of content will be improved. Direct translations for content must be possible - News articles with the same ID in different languages are the result. Again getText was discussed as a possible solution and the move to UTF-8.
One of the most complex parts of Postnuke today is the Permission system. It is powerful yet often to complicated. So soultions have to be found to solve standard permissions requirements.
Axel Guckelsberger requested an addition to the hooks system - hooks don't know the permissions a user has for the item they are hooked into. So if you want to download a files that is attached to a forum post the permissions to download would result from the a) the permission of the user to view the thread and b) the permission of the user to download files. Hooks are today blind for this. Mark agreed that this had to be changed for future releases.
While talking about hooks Frank Schummertz requested more hook types. Currently we have display, transform, create, update and delete hooks. A required new type is the init or pageload hook that hooks into the start of the system like the spam prevention system BadBehaviour for example that stops the loading of the page if it detects a spam bot.
Mark Ronchera asked for the use of OpenID in future releases which Mark West answered by explaining the flexibility of the .8 authentication module. You can easily inculde plugins for other authentication systems. Simon Birtwistle pointed out that he already produced a plugin for his university's auth system. If you want you could also authenticate against phpBB or any other PHP script but you are not limited to it and LDAP e.g. is already included.