Microsoft has used what is believed to be its last appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show to showcase its Windows 8 operating system to be released later this year.
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Like rivals Google and Apple, Microsoft has decided to introduce future products at dedicated events rather than CES, according to US reports.
While Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer did not announce a release date for Windows 8, and the live demo did not show anything that has not been seen before, the keynote signalled that Microsoft is serious about adapting to the increasing popularity of tablet computers and smartphones.
"Windows 8 is the potential of a tablet with the power of a PC,” declared Tami Reller, chief marketing officer for Windows, highlighting the latest version’s key flexibility in being able to be run on a smartphone, tablet, ultrabook, laptop and PC using touch, mouse, keyboard or all three.
Microsoft is banking on the fact that Windows 8 on tablets will retain the familiar tools that millions of people have been using for years on desktop and laptop computers.
Another key point highlighted about Windows 8 is that it will run on x86 (AMD and Intel) as well ARM processors, with the device used in the keynote powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU.
Silicon partners Nvidia, Texas instruments and Qualcomm are working with Microsoft to enable Windows 8 on ARM chips, and because Windows 8 is such a light operating system, every Windows 7 PC will be able to run Windows 8.
The move will step up Microsoft’s competition with rival Google as Windows 8 will compete directly with Google’s Android operating system for the attention of the tablet producers and users.
Analysts say this could potentially be a huge blow to Google because although Android can boast apps, Windows 8 has the advantage of consistent user experience across multiple devices and the ability to run fully fledged programs which are far more advanced than most apps.
Reller also highlighted the Windows Store which will host apps for Windows 8 ranging from games to utility apps.
Microsoft has been encouraging developers to develop apps in HTML 5 so that all apps can be written once to run across all devices and platforms.
Windows store will be the global market for Windows 8 apps and goes live in late February. “The store is not just for consumers as businesses can use the store to deliver their business apps and updates to employee,” Reller said.
Ballmer used the keynote to announce that Kinect will be available on Windows on 1 February. Until now, Kinect has been offered only for the Xbox.
Microsoft has shipped 18 million Kinect sensors since the technology started shipping about a year ago, he said.