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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Microsoft unveils Windows 8 for consumer testing


Microsoft 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 big gains in the market through its Macs and iPads. The test "beta" version of the revamped system was introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the planet s largest cell phone 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 as a scramble to preserve its market share. And executives said it powers up on PCs in eight seconds, much faster than the previous version. Microsoft shares dipped 13 cents to close at $31.74 Wednesday after the new operating system was introduced. The stock has been hovering around its highest levels since April 2008. Windows 8 is radically different from its predecessors, with its tiles that provide a glimpse at the activity occurring in applications connected to the Web, such as email. The system also is expected to enable users to easily back up their pictures, movies, music and other files on a Microsoft storage service called SkyDrive, which will compete against Apple s iCloud. Windows 8 could inspire more PC makers to design machines that combine the convenience of tablets with the utility of a notebook computer. These devices would be similar to the so-called "ultrabook" computers that offer a Windows-based version of Apple s lightweight MacBook Air machines. Once Windows 8 is available, the ultrabook line could be expanded to include machines equipped with a screen that swivels off the keyboard to take advantage of the system s touch controls and provide a tablet-like experience.

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