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The legal fight between Apple, Samsung and HTC could be a game changer for Microsoft as tablet vendors look to Windows 8 as the preferred favourite instead of patent prone Android OS tablets.

The legal fight between Apple, Samsung and HTC could be a game changer for Microsoft as tablet vendors look to new Windows 8 OS tablets as the product to push as opposed to patent prone Android OS tablets.

Last night Microsoft unveiled their new Windows 8 OS which is designed to power not only personal computers but also rivals to Apple’s iPad.

Microsoft Windows boss Steven Sinofsky treated attendees to their Build 2011 conference to a walkthrough of the various changes that Microsoft has made to the software, which could be a bigger threat to Apple than Google’s Android.

Sinofsky told the audience that Microsoft has retained a lot of the familiar keyboard commands users have become accustomed to over the years, like CMD and Ctrl+F, that Internet Explorer could switch between the much-hyped Metro-style UI and plain old desktop view and that security update notifications have been minimised to the lower right of the log-in screen. 

Also included is a refreshed Windows Task Manager that suspends apps when they’re not running on-screen, a new “Reset and Refresh PC” function that enables simplified system wipe and restore HyperV virtualisation software comes pre-loaded on Windows 8.

Multi-monitor support now enables a single background across screens, as well as monitor-specific task bars.

He said that all Windows 7 applications will run natively on Windows 8.

Throughout his presentation Sinofsky continually stressed touchscreen tablets as he boasted of the diverse types of hardware that Windows 8 will run after its official release.

“We re-imagined Windows,” Sinofsky said. “From the chipset to the user experience, Windows 8 brings a new range of capabilities without compromise.”

Windows 8 was crafted to allow all kinds of computers to be controlled with taps or swipes of screens, gestures familiar to owners of smartphones or tablet computers.

The operating system was also designed to let separate applications work together and to synchronise files across various Windows 8 devices.

Sinofsky demonstrated the point by having a picture taken on a camera-enabled desktop computer pop up on a tablet.

“Windows 8 works beautifully across a spectrum of devices, from 10-inch tablets and laptops to all-in-ones with 27-inch high-definition screens,” Microsoft said.

Windows 8 was shaping up to be Microsoft’s answer to criticism that it had ceded the tablet computer space to Google’s Android platform and Apple, which has dominated a market it ignited with the release of the iPad.

New features announced include: See over page.

 

Multi-touch support enabled for Internet Explorer 10
Magnifier function enhanced for desktop manipulation
Optional thumb-by-thumb input mode
SkyDrive storage support integrated into all cloud-based apps
Metro-style refresh for Mail, Photos, Calendar and People apps with Windows Live ID
Settings roam allows for preferences to sync across a user’s Windows 8 devices
Continued update support for Windows 8 Developer Preview Beta
Even a Lenovo S10 (first-gen Atom + 1GB of RAM) can “run” Windows 8
There’s “no overlays” with Windows 8; Metro-style goodness is baked into the core
Both Metro-style and conventional Win32 apps will be sold in the Windows Store
Windows 8 devices equipped with an NFC chip will be able to use a tap-to-share feature to either send content from one device to another, or simply receive content from something like an NFC-equipped card.
Logins will use a photo-based system
Apps will be able to natively connect and understand one another (if written as such)
Built-in antivirus software will ship in Windows 8
There will not be a different edition of Windows 8 for tablets, and presumably, not for Media Centres either
It’s unclear how many “editions” (Home, Professional, Ultimate, etc.) of Windows 8 there will be
ARM devices will be supported, but not in the developer preview

Microsoft was so eager to get independent developers working on applications for Windows 8 that it gave tablet computer prototypes to each of the 5,000 BUILD attendees so they could begin tinkering with the software.

Software developers unable to attend BUILD will be able to download developer copies of Windows 8 at dev.windows.com beginning at US 0300 GMT on Wednesday.

Windows 8 has to hit several more milestones before a polished version of the software will be released to hardware makers for installation in devices heading for market.

“This is a pre-release product,” Sinofsky said. “You saw some little snafus today; there are going to be more of them.”

Windows 8 will be refined and updated with the help of feedback from developers. Microsoft declined to predict when a final version would be ready for release.

“We are going to be driven by the quality not the date and just be focused on building applications right now,” Sinofsky said.

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