Microsoft on Wednesday released the
first public version of its next generation operating system Windows
8, a cornerstone of its plan to halt the encroachment of Apple and
Google on its once dominant market position.
The new system was hailed by the Seattle software giant as the most far-reaching redesign of its core product since it introduced Windows 95. Until now the software was only available to registered developers, who downloaded some 3 million copies of the software.
Featuring a mosaic of activity tiles that radically alter the way Windows users interact with computers, the new software is designed to operate both traditional PCs and tablet computers with a choice of touch gestures or traditional mouse and keyboard controls.
Microsoft is years behind Apple and Google in tapping the fast-growing market for tablet computers, which is drawing millions of users away from traditional laptops. It also badly lags behind the company in the smartphone space and has been widely criticized for failing to prepare itself for the post-PC era.
"With Windows 8, we reimagined the different ways people interact with their PC and how to make everything feel like a natural extension of the device, whether using a Windows 8 tablet, laptop or all-in-one," said Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows Division at Microsoft. "The Windows 8 Consumer Preview brings a no-compromises approach to using your PC."
Those changes include ditching Windows' traditional Start button with a sliding menu, integrated web-based storage and activity tiles that group together related functions and present new information in real time without having to open individual applications.
Windows 8 is also the first Microsoft operating system designed to run on ARM-based chips that dominated mobile devices, rather that the Intel chips that are ubiquitous in PCs. It features a faster boot time, and uses less energy and processing power than Windows 7. It is expected to hit the market in September of October.
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