Windows 8 will be very, very tablet-friendly

Windows 8 is designed to work on both PCs and tablets, Microsoft announced this week. But the emphasis – for now – seems to be on the tablet part of the Windows 8 equation.

Windows 8 is geared at both desktop and tablet users. Here, a screen from Windows 8, which is expected to launch in the next 18 months.

Microsoft on Wednesday took the wraps off Windows 8, a next-generation operating system designed to work on both desktop machines and mobile devices. (It's worth noting that Windows 8 is only a working title, which Microsoft could change before launch.) Company reps touted Windows 8's "touch-centric hardware" and cross-platform capability – a nod to the recent surge of interest in tablet computers.

"Our aim with Windows 8 is to make the user experience a natural extension of the device, from the time you turn on your PC through how you interact with the applications you know and love," Microsoft exec Mike Angiulo said in a statement. "This represents a fundamental shift in Windows design that we haven’t attempted since the days of Windows 95, presenting huge opportunities for our hardware partners to innovate with new PC designs."

Microsoft will officially open the Windows 8 platform to developers at the BUILD conference in September; the operating system itself is expected to launch sometime next year – not this fall, as had been previously rumored. So how will Windows 8, which is centered around a tiled application set-up, stack up against competitors, including the next version of the Apple OSX?

Over at ZD Net, Mary Jo Foley notes that the bulk of the Windows 8 demos have centered around tablet applications. "If I am a business user with Windows Vista or Windows 7 installed on my existing PC, will I want to upgrade to a touch-centric Windows 8?" she asks. "Even if it has faster startup/shutdown/hibernate, a better built-in data-recovery mechanism, or a Windows Store for purchasing/keeping track of my apps? I’m not so sure."

Nicholas Kolakowski of eWeek has a similar concern. But he points out that Microsoft has assured "its audience that Windows 8 will work just as well with a mouse and keyboard; that, in combination with the new operating system’s backward compatibility with existing applications such as Excel, could be enough to satisfy most desktop jockeys."

More when we know it.

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