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BW Businessworld

Windows 8 And Surface Tablet Launched

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Microsoft launched its full and final version of Windows 8, the operating system (OS) it has been working on for the past year. At an event held at the Oberoi Hotel in New Delhi, Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman Microsoft Corporation India, formally introduced the new OS to the media. Also gathered were other top executives from Microsoft India, several hardware partners, developers, and some customers.
“With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is unveiling a re-imagined Windows to the world,” said Bhaskar Pramanik, speaking at the event. “Whether you want a tablet or a PC, whether you want to consume or create, whether you want to work or play – Windows 8 delivers a personalised experience that fits your unique style and needs.” 
Windows 8 is a completely overhauled or “re-imagined” product, critical to Microsoft because it will be present on computers, tablets and smartphones, allowing the software giant to make a much delayed play for a portion of the mobile market, while trying to retain its long-held dominance on desktops. The OS has been designed to be a comprehensive environment. Letting users move from one device to another seamlessly without losing their data, the applications they work on, or the experience.
Windows 8 and apps on the new Windows Store will be available to users in India starting 26 October on Windows certified PCs and tablets. Windows 8 based phones will be launched later this week.
Showcased at the launch event were a large number of laptops, ultrabooks, hybrids and tablets from 14 OEM Microsoft partners – Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HCL, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo, RP Infosystems, Sai Info System, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, Wipro and Zenith Computers. This included both touch and non-touch devices as Windows 8 can work on traditional PCs that meet a minimum set of hardware specs even though the OS is “touch first” or primed to work with touch devices.
Windows 8 on different devicesWindows 8 has been available in a consumer preview form for the past few months. Distinctive to the OS is its Start Screen which replaces the well-worn Start Menu. The Start Screen is made up of colourful tiles, each of which can be tapped to ead to apps. The tiles, depending on the app, show live information such as weather updates, e-mail or messages from contacts. The Taskbar and other navigational features now are in the form of panels that slide out when the user swipes at various points on the screen. Windows 8 now works with apps, or smaller pieces of software that can be downloaded at low cost from the online store, as well as larger applications that users all over the world are accustomed to, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. 
In India, a range of free and paid apps can be downloaded including Bharat Matrimony, BigFlix, BookMyShow, Bookyourtable, Burrp, Dhingana, Fastrack Tees, Flyte MP3, Gaana, Goibibo, ICICI Bank iMobile, ICICIDirect, JustEat, MakeMyTrip Explore, MapmyIndia, my airtel, NDTV Play, PVR Cinemas, Tarla Dalal, Yahoo Cricket, and Zovi, among many others. The paucity of apps, compared with Apple’s 700,000, has been a concern when it comes to Windows 8 and its still growing ecosystem. Microsoft urgently needs to regain ground lost to the iPad and other tablets spilling into the market.
Windows 8 will be available in two versions at retail, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. And for thebusiness customers who have signed up for software assurance, Windows 8 Enterprise there are features like Windows To Go, DirectAccess, and BranchCache, as well as enhanced end-to-end security with features including BitLocker and AppLocker. Launching at the same time is a new member of the Windows family designed for ARM-based tablets, Windows RT, which will be available pre-installed on new devices such as Microsoft’s Surface tablet.
In addition to the range of new devices available, consumers can also upgrade their existing PCs. From 2 June 2012 until 31 January 2013, consumers currently running PCs with Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, are qualified to download Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of Rs 1,999. And Windows 7 PCs purchased between 2 June 2012, and 31 January 2013 can download Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of Rs 699 with the Windows upgrade offer currently on.
While launch events took place all around the world, the main event, led by Steve Balmer, was in New York’s Times Square where Microsoft’s Surface tablet was also debuted. Steven Sinofsky, head of Microsoft's Windows unit and the driving force behind Windows 8, opened the launch event in New York in front about 1,000 media and PC industry partners. He showed off Windows 8's new look, but stressed that the system was built upon the base of Windows 7, Microsoft's best-selling software that recently passed 670 million license sales. The new design of Windows, which dispenses with the Start button and features square tiles for apps, may surprise some users. Initial demand appeared solid, but customers were wary.
Early reviews of the Surface tablet were mixed, with praise for its slick hardware, but concerns about battery life and limited software and applications available.
"We have seen steady pre-order sales on Windows 8 devices from early adopters," said Merle McIntosh, senior vice president of product management at online electronics retailer Newegg. "However, we expect that most average consumers are waiting until after launch to make a purchase decision." Investors were uncertain about the prospects for success of Windows 8, but many feel a solid launch could help Microsoft's stock, which has languished between $20 and $30 for much of the last decade.
Apple's shares have significantly outperformed Microsoft's over the past 10 years, and its market value is now more than double Microsoft's. Microsoft was little changed at $27.87; Apple fell 0.7 per cent at $612.73.
"This really is about debunking the notion that Microsoft is a dinosaur and they are relevant in a new climate of tablets and mobile," said Todd Lowenstein, portfolio manager at HighMark Capital Management, which holds Microsoft shares. "Extreme pessimism and almost utter failure is priced into the shares, so any kind of positive delivery on units, customer perception, would be really beneficial to the stock."
(With inputs from Reuters)