Microsoft launches Windows 8

Microsoft on Thursday officially launched Windows 8, a major overhaul of its flagship operating system, as part of the software giant’s attempts to stay competitive in an increasingly mobile computing landscape.

In addition to desktop and laptop personal computer (PC), Windows 8 also runs on tablet computer, a new computing device category created by Apple’s iPad.

The Windows 8 has a redesigned Start screen replacing the icons with square tiles for various applications, which are optimized for touch control by fingers, a radical change to the familiar look and feel of the previous versions of Windows.

The new interface also allows users to switch to the traditional desktop mode and control using keyboard and mouse.

“With Windows 8, we’ve brought together the best of both worlds, the PC and the tablet,” Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive officer, said at the launch event held in New York City.

The latest operating system will be available worldwide beginning Friday, Microsoft said.

As a dominant force in the PC era, Microsoft is pinning hopes on the revamped Windows 8 to boost the slumping PC market and gain new ground in a post-PC world which is being shaped by competitors such as Apple and Google.

Global PC market is expected to contract by 1.2 percent to 348. 7 million units in 2012, the first decline in 11 years, research firm IHS iSuppli predicted earlier in October.

The Windows 8 will help stimulate the PC market by meeting customers’ changing needs and scaling across all of their devices, said Tami Reller, vice president and chief financial officer at Windows and Windows Live at Microsoft.

According to Microsoft, more than 1,000 certified PCs and tablets will be available for the launch of Windows 8.

“We started working with our partners in the initial planning phases of Windows 8. So before Windows 7 was even shipped, we were engaged with our partners. So far, we’ve certified a thousand unique systems,” said Reller.

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Windows 8 is a big gamble Microsoft must take to stay relevant in a world where mobile devices with new modern experiences such as the touch interface are becoming the norm, analysts at research firm Gartner has said.

“Retail and enterprise users worldwide will be able to experience from Friday all that Windows has to offer with a new user interface, a host of applications from its store,” Microsoft India chairman Bhaskar Pramanik said in a statement late Thursday.

The bundled version will be available on form factors ranging from tablets to laptops and ultra notebooks from 14 OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners, including Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, HCL, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, Wipro and Zenith Computers.

Over 250 Windows 8 enabled devices, including 23 new SKUs (stock keeping unit) of Windows 8 PCs are available across 100 cities and over 2,500 retail stores.

Unlike its earlier versions, including Windows 7, Windows 8 boasts of an intuitive start screen and tiles with rich content and update in real time.

“As Windows anytime upgrade (WAU), the latest version is cloud connected. Users will have to sign once with their MS (Microsoft) account to ensure they will be able to access mails, calendars, contact, pictures among other apps (applications,” Pramanik said.

The new OS (operating system) will have two versions at retail – Windows 8 & Windows Pro, while Windows 8 enterprise offers mobile productivity with features like To Go, Direct Access.

“Users can upgrade their personal computers (desktops) that have Windows XP, Vista or Window 7 at an affordable price of Rs.1,999 till Jan 2013,” Pramanik added.

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