Ready For Liftoff: What You Missed At Microsoft's Windows 8 Launch Event

Windows 8 And Windows RT At Long Last

After several years of development and months of hype and expectation, Microsoft finally launched its long-awaited Windows 8, the next generation of the company's flagship desktop -- and now tablet -- computer operating system.

Microsoft announced the availability of Windows and Windows RT, the version of Windows developed for ARM-based tablet computers, at an event in Manhattan last week. Microsoft also announced the availability of Surface for Windows RT, the tablet computer that marks Microsoft's first attempt at selling a Microsoft-branded computer.

Here's a look at what you missed.

Queuing Up

The big event was held in Pier 57, a cavernous, warehouse-like building on the Hudson River on Manhattan's West Side. Hundreds of journalists from around the world turned out to cover the Windows launch. They began lining up outside the entrance nearly two hours before Microsoft opened the doors to the venue at 10:00 a.m.

Microsoft Re-Imagined

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announces the availability of Windows 8 at the launch event in New York. "Windows 8. Yeah, I'm excited," an enthusiastic Ballmer said taking the stage. "Windows 8, Windows RT with Office 2013, and Surface are here."

Ballmer said Windows 8 and Windows RT have become the center of Microsoft's development efforts, noting that many of the company's products have been updated or optimized to work with the new operating systems. Those include Internet Explorer 10, the Bing search engine, MSN, and Skype. "Skype on Windows 8. It's fast, it's easy, it's beautiful," the CEO said.

Partner Opportunities

Ballmer said the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT would provide a boost for Microsoft and its channel partners -- as well as for the PC industry overall. The CEO cited analyst forecasts that 400 million new PCs will be sold in 2013 -- most with Windows 8.

Microsoft is making a major push to convince the millions of users of the decade-old Windows XP to upgrade. And, some 670,000 PCs are running early releases of the desktop OS and are ripe for upgrading to the commercial release.

Ballmer also touted the new opportunities for ISVs that can develop applications for Windows 8 and Windows RT and sell them through the new Windows Store that went live Oct. 26.

Show And Touch

Journalists, analysts and other guests at the Windows 8 launch event got to check out the display of new laptop and tablet computers from Samsung, Lenovo, Asus and other manufacturers running Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Two Billion Windows Users?

"In creating Windows 8, we shunned the incremental," said Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, in a speech preceding Ballmer. Sinofsky, who had ultimate responsibility for the Windows 8 development, described the new software as a quantum leap in personal computing.

Earlier editions of Windows are installed on more than 1 billion PCs worldwide, and Sinofsky said that with Windows 8, Microsoft is "looking forward to the next billion."

The executive said Windows 8 and Windows RT have undergone 1.24 billion hours of pre-release testing, and he emphasized the software's compatibility with Windows 7 hardware and software. He bragged about the new software's smaller memory footprint, faster boot time and improved battery management capabilities. More than 1,000 hardware devices are certified to run Windows 8, some priced less than $300, he said.

Surrounding Yourself With The Best

Ballmer and Sinofsky were surrounded onstage with some 20 new Windows 8 and Windows RT laptop and tablet devices.

"Just look at these gorgeous, gorgeous machines and how alive they are with activity," the ever-ebullient Ballmer said, noting the devices surrounding him onstage. "Our partners have come up with incredible new designs. People are going to love all the new Windows 8 devices and all they can do."

Taking Windows 8 For A Spin

Mike Angiulo, corporate vice president of Windows Hardware and PC Ecosystem at Microsoft, and Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's corporate vice president of program management for Windows, demonstrated some of the new capabilities in Windows 8 and Windows RT, the latter shown running on Microsoft's new Surface for Windows RT tablet.

The Surface Tablet Gets Its Own Moment In The Spotlight

While the first hour of the event was devoted to Windows 8 and Windows RT, the second hour focused on the Surface for Windows RT tablet -- Microsoft's first branded computer.

Sinofsky and Panos Panay (right), general manager for Microsoft Surface, demonstrated the tablet's capabilities and, in an effort to prove its durability, dropped it on the floor several times and then showed off a Surface tablet with skateboard wheels attached that Sinofsky stood on.

Ready For Its Closeup

Here's a close look at the Surface tablet with its touch screen and innovative, colorful "Touch Cover" keyboard. The ARM-based Surface for Windows RT is on sale today, while the Surface for Windows 8 Pro, based on an Intel microprocessor, will go on sale in January.

Hot Town, Tablets In The City

The Windows 8 launch event venue included this recreation of New York City -- dubbed "Microtropolis" -- with laptop and tablet computers running Windows 8 and Windows RT scattered about. Attendees were encouraged to walk among the buildings and try out the devices.

More Windows 8 Coverage From CRN

The Wait Is Over:
12 Hot Devices Running Windows 8
Windows 8: Five Things To Love, Five Things To Hate
Windows 8 RTM: What's New In Microsoft's New OS