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March 1, 2012, 11:56 am UTC
Microsoft Corp has unveiled the first widely available test version of Windows 8, giving the public the first chance to try out the slick, new-look operating system it hopes will restore the company's fading tech supremacy.
The Redmond, Washington-based company demonstrated the software, which lets users store applications in the Internet-based cloud in order to easily switch between computers and Windows Phones, at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain.
Windows 8, as the first Microsoft operating system compatible with low-power microprocessors designed by ARM Holdings Plc, will run on tablets as well as desktops and laptops, in an effort to counter the runaway success of Apple's iPad.
The software is available to download now, before its commercial release in a few months’ time, and marks Microsoft's make-or-break bid to compete with Apple and Google in controlling the next generation of computers.
Already downloaded by three million developers, the beta version of Windows 8 can be populated by dozens of applications. It includes redesigned versions of Amazon's Kindle e-book reader, games such as Cut the Rope, and the Vimeo video sharing site.
At the launch event, Microsoft CEO, Mr Steven Sinovsky, said "We set out to build Windows in a new way. The goal was to create "the ability to have a wide variety of price points, the ability to go from consumer to professional and bringing this diversity to over one billion customers.”
Since the developer preview, Windows 8 has undergone 100,000 code changes. Unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows 8 is designed to run on a huge array of devices, capabilities and form factors, Mr Sinvosky said. The free Consumer Preview is now available in English, German, French, Japanese, and Standard Chinese. Plus, for developers, the big news is that the Visual Studio 11 beta is available as well.
Windows 8 is "beautiful, modern, fast, and fluid," Sinofsky said, arguing that the new OS is a "generational change" in how Microsoft designed Windows. That last time that happened was with Windows 95 and back then, Redmond had to include a "click to start" button on the bottom left so people knew how to use it."At that time, computing was new to most Windows customers,today, computing has a huge number of distinct user models and interfaces but Windows 8 makes it easy to use. We think it will be a super fun experience and will come natural to people. Windows 8 is a generational change in the windows operating system." he added.
Probably the biggest change to Windows is its Metro user interface, which has adapted it to run on touch devices. Ms Julie Larson-Green, Corporate Vice-President, Windows Program Management, said "Windows had worked extensively with Samsung to perfect the operating system for a touchscreen. Windows 8 will also reduce Microsoft's dependence on its 30-year partnership with Intel Corp. (INTC). Instead, the operating system will support ARM processors, designed by ARM Holdings PLC (ARMH, ARM.LN), which are used in virtually all tablet computers and smartphones, in addition to the previously supported x86 microprocessors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD)."
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