gee-whiz launch of Windows 8

Thursday, March 1st 2012. | Software News

bildeMicrosoft on Wednesday let consumers start trying out its upcoming touch-based Windows 8 operating system, which aims to power a new wave of computer tablets and traditional PCs designed to counter Apple’s huge market gains through the iMacs and iPads.

The test “beta” version of the revamped system was introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the planet’s largest cellphone trade show, and borrows some of the look of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 software for Windows 8.

Windows 8 doesn’t have the traditional “Start” menu, and applications are spread across a mosaic of tiles in a design Microsoft calls “Metro” — seen as an attempt by the company that is scrambling to preserve its market share.

Microsoft executives said the operating system powers up on personal computers in eight seconds, much faster than the previous version.

The tiles, which resemble road signs, can be navigated with a finger swipe on the screen or with a keyboard and mouse.

The executives showed off how users — who have to wait until September or October for the official debut — can use their fingertips to swipe in and out of applications, and tilt upright computer screens to a flat position so they can be used as two-person gaming boards or big drawing tablets.

“It’s beautiful, it’s modern, it’s fast, it’s fluid,” said Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows division. “Windows 8 is a generational change in the windows operating system.”

The technology company is also opening an Internet “Windows Store” where users can download applications for the operating system, but only if they have Windows 8. Applications are free for those testing out the beta version, but would include both free and paid versions after the operating system is released.

The test version was downloaded by people from more than 70 countries as Microsoft gave its Windows 8 presentation, but the company didn’t immediately disclose the number of downloads. The software can be downloaded at http://win dows.microsoft.com/en-US/ windows-8/consumer-preview.

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