At its Build developers' conference this week, Microsoft shed some light on its upcoming Windows 8 operating system--the first to work on tablets with touch from the start, and by all accounts a dramatic shift from its current Windows version.
The new Windows' main new trick is the ability to swap between the traditional Windows interface and the new "Metro" style that's touch-friendly. Microsoft is also bringing some of its apps over to the newer style, such as its contacts, photos, and calendaring tools, and its e-mail client and Web browser.
And though the embrace of portable computing devices like tablets sounds a little Apple-like, Redmond's approach is very different.
Apple believes consumers will want discreet devices that are designed to take on specific tasks. That's why its laptop and desktop computers run a beefy operating system designed to handle the sort of heavy-duty computer processing that's required by, for example, computer-assisted design applications, and its iPads run a much lighter-weight operating system that's fine for simply surfing the Web or reading a digital book.
That's not the vision Microsoft's pursuing. The software giant believes consumers will want a meaty operating system that can run on a variety of devices--everything from a slim tablet up to water-cooled high-end gaming system. Not surprisingly, the company thinks that operating system is Windows.
So while Microsoft has characterized just about every Windows launch since Windows 95 as the biggest change to computer operating systems since that product debuted 16 years ago, this time, it might actually be true.
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