As someone who writes about product launches on a regular basis, I can tell you that nearly everyone starts with an executive standing up in front of reporters telling them how aggressive and potentially game-changing their new offering is. Microsoft did that on Tuesday – and they may be right.
Microsoft unveiled the latest iteration of its Windows operating system at the company's annual Build conference in Anaheim, Calif., and promised that it will "change the world of computing" with a new UI that is optimized for PCs, tablets and other mobile devices.
The software can be controlled via touchscreen, mouse or keyboard, and will run "virtually all" of the existing Windows apps, Windows President Steven Sinofsky said on Tuesday.
Windows 8 builds on Microsoft's latest mobile OS, Windows Phone 7, with a live tile interface that keeps users automatically updated on basic information – all without forcing them to open an app. For instance, users can take a quick peek at a few investments that they are watching without ever having to initiate an application. As with Windows Phone 7, the start screen can be customized by each user.
When apps are launched, they can be positioned side-by-side, giving users the opportunity to say, watch a YouTube video while creating a tweet. In addition, all apps with be "metro-styled," meaning they can will run full-screen, void of any panes or menu bars, similar to traditional tablet apps.
Bloomberg reports that the software gives users the option of switching between the new tiled look and the traditional Windows 7 look. In essence, Microsoft is handing the PC experience over to tablet owners and vice versa. This way, users can choose whether to run tablet-style apps or traditional Windows 7 apps, regardless of what device they are on. This new hybrid feel is a bold step, and one that will help define Microsoft's future success.
"I promise you we did not lose sight of fundamentals," Sinofsky told CNN.
To show off the sheer power of Windows 8, Sinofsky loaded the OS into a three-year old netbook and took attendees on a tour. The computer booted up in fewer than 10 seconds and used less memory than it would if it was running on Windows 7. Microsoft said that future ultra-thin laptops and tablets will be able to boot up immediately and run on a single charge.
Sinofsky also said that the OS will have a new Windows Store built in that will contain standard and alternative apps. This announcement was more pointed toward the developers in the crowd, who Microsoft hopes will build out a trove of apps before the official launch of Windows 8, which has still yet to be put on a calendar.
Windows 7 is a clear attempt by Microsoft to build a universal product that can help them compete with Apple and other players in the thriving tablet space. The Redmond, Wash.-based company has suffered recently from lagging PC sales and subpar performances in the mobile space.
Stay tuned for more updates from the conference, as details are still rolling in.
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Beecher Tuttle is a TechZone360 contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.Edited by Tammy Wolf
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