Microsoft reveals radical tablet overhaul for Windows 8

Microsoft has shown off Windows 8 for the first time, taking aim at growing competition from tablet-friendly rivals.

Microsoft reveals radical tablet overhaul for Windows 8

According to Microsoft, Windows 8 will herald a change of approach running from the chip to the interface, and will scale from touch-only small-screen devices to large desktops.

Microsoft will be hoping the tile-based interface – which borrows from the Windows Phone 7 user interface – will help it make up lost ground on Apple and Android devices in the booming tablet market.

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The company showed off the software at events in the US and Taiwan, and in a video on its website.

“The demo showed some of the ways we’ve reimagined the interface for a new generation of touch-centric hardware,” said Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Windows Experience.

“Fast, fluid and dynamic, the experience has been transformed while keeping the power, flexibility and connectivity of Windows intact.”

Windows 8 Start screen

Microsoft highlighted fast launch times from a tile-based Start screen to replace the existing Start menu, with tiles customised for live updates from apps.

The company also stressed that although Windows 8 would be more user friendly in appearance for touch-screen devices, the traditional strengths of the operating system would be accessible under the hood, and that the new OS would fit in with existing Microsoft software.

“We also showed effortless movement between existing Windows programs and new Windows 8 apps,” said Larson-Green. “The full capabilities of Windows continue to be available to you, including the Windows Explorer and Desktop, as does compatibility with all Windows 7 PCs, software and peripherals.”

Developer delight?

According to Microsoft, the software will also make better use of web technologies, promising “web-connected and web-powered apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that have access to the full power of the PC”.

The company was transparent in targeting the success of Apple and its App Store. “We’ve talked a bit about how developers will build apps for the new system – Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML to deliver new kinds of experiences,” Larson-Green said.

“These new Windows 8 apps are full-screen and touch-optimised, and they easily integrate with the capabilities of the new Windows user interface.”

The company claimed that the millions of Windows 8 installations would make the platform an attractive home for app developers.

Microsoft had already said that Windows 8 would run on ARM-based processors favoured in smartphones and tablets, as well as on the x86 platform from Intel and AMD.

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