New operating system is Windows reimagined for tablets, Microsoft says
The world's most popular computer operating system will be completely redesigned to work better on tablet computers, its maker has said.
At a press conference in Taiwan, Microsoft today showed the first detailed demonstration of Windows 8, the next version of its Windows operating system.
Taking a leaf from its own Windows Phone operating system for mobile handsets, the software maker has grafted a panel-based interface over the familiar Windows desktop. This will allow users to quickly access 'apps' and get instant information without having to go through the full Windows interface.
The apps demonstrated included Internet Explorer 10, which Microsoft said is "a browser optimised for touch". Giving the demonstration, corporate vice president of Windows planning, hardware and PC ecosystem Mike Anguilo said that trends in computing have changed since Windows 7 was released in 2009.
He said: "For Windows 7 we knew people wanted thinner notebooks that would last longer. By time we delivered Windows 7 the full version ran on even the smallest netbook. The trends we're facing now have changed. Today they are around immersive computing, ultra-portable and touch-screens.
"This represents a fundamental shift in Windows design that we haven't attempted since the days of Windows 95, presenting huge opportunities for our hardware partners to innovate with new PC designs."
Microsoft isn't abandoning older computers, however. The new operating system will run on all computers that run Windows 7, Mr Anguilo said, adding: "We extended the trend of Windows 7 on keeping our system requirements flat or reducing them. You don't need to choose between new and old". The touch-panel interface can be used alongside the Windows desktop, and "all of the same functionality you see on a touch-only system works great on a keyboard and a mouse."
In addition to working on the Intel and AMD processors that Windows 7 uses, the new version will be available for handheld computers using processors designed by British chip designer Arm. On display were tablet computers from Qualcomm, using Arm processors, running Windows 8.
Arm-based Windows 8 computers and all those using very large hard disks (over 2.2TB) would need to use the new UEFI technology to start the computer rather than the older Bios currently in use. Mr Anguilo said that UEFI would lead to start times of as little as six seconds on some PCs.
In an apparent dig at the tablet-computer market-leader Apple, Mr Anguilo said: "You don't have to give up control over your PC just because it's Arm or because it's a tablet."
Mr Anguilo was speaking at the Computex Taipei 2011 trade show. To read all of our coverage from Computex Taipei 2011, click here.
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