Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Windows President Steven Sinofsky previewed a touch-screen version of the operating system that can work on tablets, offering a glimpse of his company’s response to Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad.
Windows 8 resembles Microsoft’s software for mobile phones and uses “tiles,” rather than icons, to help users navigate between applications, Sinofsky said at AllThingsD’s D9 Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Microsoft demonstrated Windows 8 on a 10.6-inch touch-screen tablet and said the operating system can also work on desktop computers.
Microsoft, the world’s biggest software maker, is rushing to adapt Windows so it can run on devices that compete with the iPad, which dominates the tablet market. The new operating system won’t be out until next year, people familiar with the plans said in March. Still, the company is eager to show it’s making progress in developing software that can be used by computer makers and chip suppliers.
“What we set out to do with Windows 8 was really try to reimagine what we could do with a PC,” Sinofsky said. “You could sort of say we colored outside the lines.”
He declined to say when the software would be available, except to note it “won’t be this fall.” Sinofsky said the company would provide additional information on the product at a developer conference later this year.
Microsoft also previewed Windows 8 to customers, partners and media at the Computex show in Taipei today. Vice President Mike Angiulo ran the system on tablets, notebooks and desktop systems made by Dell Inc, Asustek Computer Inc, and Quanta Computer Inc. using chips and technology from ARM Holdings Plc (ARM), Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), Texas Instruments Inc. and Nvidia Corp. (NVDA)
The design of the software is similar to the tile interface on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 mobile-handset software. Like that program, Windows 8’s tiles can be automatically updated to display information from apps on the computer’s start screen, so a weather app can tell the user that it’s forecast to be sunny without requiring them to open the application.
The software also will run on desktop and laptop computers via a touch screen, mouse or keyboard. And it will run existing Windows applications, the company said.
Windows 8 is the biggest operating system change the company has made since Windows 95, said Julie Larson-Green, a Microsoft vice president who demonstrated the software during Sinofsky’s speech.
Larson-Green showed the software running on an Intel Corp. (INTC) chip. The operating system also will be the first full version of Windows capable of operating on chips made with technology from ARM Holdings.
Microsoft lags behind Apple in tablets despite promoting earlier versions of the format for at least a decade. None of those tablets ever took off with consumers. Apple, which develops the hardware and software that runs the iPad, introduced its device in 2010.
The global tablet market will almost quadruple this year to 70 million units from 18 million in 2010, according to Jefferies Group Inc. Apple will control about 64 percent of the 2011 tablet market, dropping to 41 percent in 2012, when 158 million units will probably be sold, Jefferies estimates.
Microsoft fell 21 cents to $24.22 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares fell 12 percent this year before today.
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