Microsoft has announced more details about its hotly-anticipated Windows 8 operating system, which promises to streamline its products across your all your devices. The company says it will be the biggest overhaul of the world’s best-selling operating system since the iconic Windows 95. But what exactly will the changes mean for the average user? We take a look at the evidence.
WHAT DO WE KNOW FOR SURE?
Windows 8 will come in three different “flavours”, which is great news for everyone who was confused by the plethora of alternative incarnations of previous versions, especially the universally derided Vista. Standard Windows 8 is designed to work on desktop and laptop PCs; Windows 8 Pro is aimed at businesses and enthusiasts (yes, there are Windows enthusiasts. No, I haven’t met one either) and Windows 8 RT is aimed at tablets and ultra-books.
ER, WHAT? RT?
Yes, RT. It stands for RunTime. Discussion about what a bad name it is accounts for about 95 per cent of comments about Windows 8 so far.
OK, SO WHAT CAN WE EXPECT?
Windows 8 is a big release for Microsoft. Massive. It is the operating system that will see the convergence of its work in desktop, mobile, gaming and entertainment over the last decade and could help to mend its reputation, which has taken a battering in recent years.
What we have seen so far, based on the so-called “Metro” view (see above), looks both completely different and totally familiar. If you only use Windows on your desktop PC then prepare for something almost unrecognisable. No “Start” button, no “My Computer” or “Recycle Bin” icons. Instead you’ll see a series of coloured blocks featuring things like pictures of your friends, the music you’re listening to and appointments you have coming up.
This display will look very familiar to users of Microsoft’s critically lauded (but commercially floundering) Windows Phone 7 software and it is also very similar to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 operating system. Windows 8 will try to draw all of these together into a coherent suite of products that could – and it’s a big could – help stem the flow of customers who are defecting to Apple.
WHAT DOES MICROSOFT HOPE TO ACHIEVE?
It is all about maintaining market share and that means breaking into the tablet market, which is the new personal computing battleground. (see Geek Speak, left).
WHEN WILL IT BE RELEASED?
There is still no official release date but we can expect to see it in October. When it is released, you can bet there will be tablets ready to run it on, with Dell and Nokia thought to be among them.