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Microsoft has given audiences the most detailed view yet of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system. The preview came in the form of a two and a half hour presentation at the Washington based software giant’s BUILD developers’ conference, which runs through to Friday.
Leading the presentation team was Windows division president Steven Sinofsky. In his presentation, Sinofsky stressed, as he has on the Windows 8 development blog, that the new OS is about reimagining Windows.
“From the chipset to the user experience, Windows 8 brings a new range of capabilities without compromise,” he said.
Sinofsky was also boasted about the range of hardware which Windows 8 will run on following its official release.
The new OS has been crafted to allow all kinds of computers to be controlled with taps or swipes of screens, gestures familiar to owners of smartphones or tablet computers.
It is also intended that the OS will allow separate applications to work together and to synchronise files across various Windows 8 devices. In particular, he stressed how well the OS would work on tablet devices.
“Windows 8 works beautifully across a spectrum of devices, from 10-inch tablets and laptops to all-in-ones with 27-inch high-definition screens,” Microsoft said.
Windows 8 is intended as an answer to criticism that Microsoft had ceded the tablet space to Google’s Android platform and Apple, which has dominated the space since the launch of the iPad.
“It is a blend, a hybrid, that attempts to give a person the advantages of an iPad and the advantages of a Macbook Air (Apple laptop) in a single device,” said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.
Windows 8 will give rise to unusual new hardware designs fusing features of tablets and laptops, Enderle predicted.
“Think of this as Microsoft taking all the cards that we know, love and trust and throwing them in the air,” he said. “After next year the line will get massively blurry between laptops and tablets”.
Such praise, however, was not uniform. According to tech news site Computer World, a number of experts felt that the presentation left key questions unanswered.
The site quotes Gartner analyst Michael Silver, who feels that Microsoft had failed to make the case for enterprises:
“I expect that they will have [enterprise-specific features] to show later, but at this point there are still lots of questions that haven’t been answered,” he said.
He also feels that there are questions around whether Microsoft can successfully pitch Windows 8 to businesses which have just recently upgraded to Windows 7.
Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Washington-based research firm that specialises in tracking Microsoft’s moves, was reluctant to buy into the company’s enthusiasm for “reimagining Windows”.
“The story they’re trying to tell — that they’ve re-imagined Windows — is a good story, but when I hear that they’re making major changes, I remember that changes lead to instability,” he said.
Windows 8 has to hit several more milestones before a polished version will be released to hardware makers for installation in devices heading for market.
Mindful of this, Sinofsky cautioned users not judge the OS too harshly based on any versions which come out prior to the official release.
“This is a pre-release product,” Sinofsky said. “You saw some little snafus today; there are going to be more of them.