Microsoft has been under pressure to respond to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms. Windows 8 was unveiled at the Build developers’ conference in California, Windows divisions presidents, Steven Sinofsky said: “We re-imagined Windows. From the chipset to the user experience.\”
The system will function through one of two interfaces: a traditional desktop, similar to that seen in previous Windows versions, and a tablet version known as Metro. Features of Metro include larger, chunky controls that best suite touchscreen use. The current lack of such an input method is widely seen as the reason why few Windows 7 tablets exist. Furthermore, Microsoft announced it would also be launching its own online marketplace – the Windows Store – to sell downloadable applications.
One of the biggest innovations for Windows 8 will be its compatibility with processors designed by ARM holdings. Chips based around the ARM architecture typically use very little power, and as a result are found in the vast majority of smartphones and tablets currently available.
To date, Windows devices have required Intel or Intel-compatible processors, with the exception of Microsoft\’s Windows Phone range. ARM chips are likely to be predominantly used on Windows 8 Metro devices, and will require ARM-specific versions of applications. Tapping into any section of the Windows market will be seen as a huge boost for Cambridge-based ARM Holdings. The company faces growing competition in the mobile device sector since Intel launched its tablet and smartphone-focused Oak Trail chipset in April 2011.
Tapping into the tablet market is seen as vital for hardware manufacturers, and software-makers, such as Microsoft, as the market for traditional computers continues to be eroded. Industry analyst Gartner predicted in April that the global market for tablets would reach 70 million this year, and grow to 300 million in 2015. Sales of desktops and laptops are expected to continue growing, but at a much slower rate than in the past.
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