Microsoft launches its new Windows 8 operating system and Surface tablet in New York Thursday, hoping to attract PC and tablet users in its flagship product and regain ground lost to Apple and Google in mobile computing.
Beginning Friday, Oct. 26, consumers and businesses worldwide will be able to buy Windows 8, which features a new user interface and a wide range of applications.
Another version of Windows 8 is being released for smartphones next week.
Windows 8 comes to life through a range of new apps available through the grand opening of the Windows Store and new hardware from Microsoft's OEM partners. Microsoft said that more than 1,000 certified PCs and tablets, including Microsoft Surface, would be available for the launch of Windows 8.
Windows 8 features the new Start screen that gives people one-click access to the apps and content they care most about. It also features an entirely new Internet Explorer 10 optimized for touch, and built-in cloud capabilities with SkyDrive. The new design of Windows, which dispenses with the Start button and features square tiles for apps, may shock some users. During the presentation, a Microsoft executive had noted that the start button was something people had to get used to when it was first introduced, suggesting that people will get used to the tile format, too.
The Windows Store makes it easy to discover, buy and install new apps in Windows 8. Friday, when Windows 8 becomes available - users will find lots of interesting new third party apps in the Windows Store to install such as Evernote, LivingSocial, Cocktail Flow, Hulu, Wikipedia and Urbanspoon to name a few. Many apps from the Windows Store are free to try before you make a purchase and Windows 8 allows you to try and then remove any app without leaving a trace.
During a press event in New York this morning Microcoft showed off Windows 8 devices in many form factors: tablets running Windows RT with instant on and extra-long battery life like the Asus Vivo Tab RT and Microsoft Surface, compact, touch-enabled x86 tablets like the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 to convertible PCs that switch between PC and tablet like the Dell XPS 12, to thin & light Ultrabooks like the ASUS UX31 Touch, the Sony VAIO Duo 11 or Acer Aspire S7-191 to large all-in-one PCs with high-definition screens like the Dell XPS One 27", the HP Envy 23 TouchSmart or Samsung Series 7.
"We have reimagined Windows and the result is a stunning lineup of new PCs," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "Windows 8 brings together the best of the PC and the tablet. It works perfect for work and play and it is alive with your world. Every one of our customers will find a PC that they will absolutely love."
Ballmer added he expects more Windows devices to be sold this quarter than Apple or Google products. That is not surprising, given that 90 percent of the PCs sold across the world run on Windows.
Windows 8 will be available for download to upgrade existing PCs in more than 140 markets and 37 languages at http://www.windows.com/buy beginning at 12:01 a.m. local time and at retail locations around the world.
At retail, Windows 8 will be available in two primary versions - Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro - as well as Windows 8 Enterprise for large organizations. Launching at the same time is a new member of the Windows family - Windows RT - designed for ARM-based tablets and available pre-installed on new devices. In addition to Microsoft Office 2013, Windows RT is designed exclusively for apps in the new Windows Store.
As a notice, Windows RT can't run older Windows applications. This also means that Windows RT devices could easier maintain their performance over time because users will be able to only download compatible applications from the Windows Store. On the other hand, Windows 8 is more open to older applications.
Through the end of January, users currently running PCs with Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 are qualified to download an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of US$39.99. And eligible Windows 7 PCs purchased between June 2, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2013, in more than 140 markets can download an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of US$14.99 with the Windows Upgrade Offer, available at http://www.windowsupgradeoffer.com
Microsoft's new PC, Microsoft Surface, is also now available for purchase at all Microsoft retail, holiday and online stores in the United States and Canada.
With a starting price of US$499, the Windows-RT-based Surface comes with a variety of Surface accessories, including Touch Covers in five colors ? black, white, magenta, cyan and red ? priced at US$119.99. Microsoft is also a Type Cover in black for US$129.99, which adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.
First unveiled in June
, Surface features an ultralight durable casing, integrated kickstand and Touch Cover, which allow users to be productive anywhere, to a full-sized USB port, 16:9 widescreen, high-definition display and 22-degree angle.