Microsoft Reports 500,000 Downloads of New Windows Preview

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) said developers have downloaded 500,000 copies of the preview version of Windows 8 since its debut yesterday, evidence of interest in an operating system that will vie with Apple Inc. (AAPL) software.

“While it’s clear we have a long way to go still with Windows 8, we’ve been gratified by the reactions and the interest,” Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said today at a conference for developers in Anaheim, California. One area needing more work: a Windows 8 version that runs on chips with technology from ARM Holdings Plc, which is “very, very important to us,” Ballmer said.

Microsoft is rushing to complete Windows 8 because the company wants an operating system capable of running thinner, lighter tablet machines with battery power that can rival Apple’s iPad. That need has led the world’s largest software maker to make its Windows personal-computer operating system compatible with ARM-based chips for the first time. ARM processors typically run smartphones and other mobile gadgets.

At the conference, Microsoft gave attendees a prototype machine running an Intel Corp. (INTC) chip rather than an ARM model, a sign that version is farther along. Microsoft hasn’t said when Windows 8 devices will go on sale.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, rose 46 cents to $26.50 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have lost 5.1 percent of their value this year.

‘Re-Imagining’ Company

While Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky yesterday said that Windows 8 “re-imagines” what Windows can do, Ballmer today said that the effort -- as well as Microsoft’s push into Internet-based cloud services and new types of hardware -- represent a “re-imagining” of the entire company.

Even as it focuses on tablets, phones and cloud computing, the company will keep Windows at the heart of its strategy, Ballmer said.

“Windows is at the center,” he said. “People question whether that is a good idea. I think it’s an exceptionally good idea.”

Windows Phone, the mobile-phone software that Microsoft released last year, hasn’t performed as well as Ballmer would have liked, he said. Still, positive reception from those who have bought the devices, as well as the support from handset makers, gives him hope for the future, he said.

“I’m not saying I love where we are, but I am very optimistic on where we can be,” Ballmer said.

When asked if Microsoft’s Internet-search partnership with Yahoo was at risk, given the company’s ouster of CEO Carol Bartz, Ballmer said he’s not worried.

“The partnership will remain strong no matter where they want to take their business or whoever they happen to install next as CEO,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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