Microsoft is providing the first significant look at Windows 8, the next generation of the company's operating system that will run on tablet and desktop computers and can be used with a keyboard and mouse or on a mobile device's touchscreen.
On Thursday Mike Angiulo, corporate vice president, Windows planning, hardware and PC ecosystem, demonstrated Windows 8 running on a variety of devices at the Computex show in Taipei, Taiwan. That followed a presentation Wednesday by Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, and Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president, Windows Experience, of Windows 8's capabilities at the All Things D "D9" conference in Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif.
Most significantly, Angiulo showed off how the Windows 8 operating system is designed to work with touch-centric hardware with the capability to work across both x86 and ARM-based mobile devices. With its touch-gesture interface, observers noted that Windows 8 in some ways more closely resembles Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system than the current Windows 7 designed for desktop PCs.
“Our aim with Windows 8 is to make the user experience a natural extension of the device, from the time you turn on your PC through how you interact with the applications you know and love,” Angiulo said in a statement. “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.”
Windows 8 (technically, that's the product's code name, not the official name for the software) is expected to be generally available sometime in 2012.
Earlier this year Microsoft and chip makers AMD, Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments said they would cooperate in developing Windows 8, allowing it to run on ARM system-on-a-chip architectures along with x86-based computers.
Microsoft has been absent from the fast-growing tablet computer market that's dominated by Apple's iPad and devices from Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and others that run Google's Android mobile operating system. Windows 8 is widely seen as Microsoft's make-or-break effort to become a player in the tablet market.
Wednesday reports surfaced that Microsoft will require ARM chip makers to agree to pair up with just one mobile device manufacturer to make tablet devices running the Windows 8 operating system. That would limit the number of variations of the Windows operating system Microsoft would have to develop, test and support, accelerating how quickly it can get into the tablet market. Microsoft is reportedly offering incentives to chip and device manufacturers to agree to such restrictions.
Microsoft hasn't commented on those reports or disclosed which device makers have allied with the semiconductor manufacturers to make Windows 8 tablets.
Microsoft is also promising that Windows 8 will be backwardly compatible with all Windows 7 hardware, software and peripheral devices.