The view from the top of IT with TechWorld Editor Rohan Pearce
Microsoft Corp. is set to unleash Windows 8, its first operating system designed to work for personal computers, tablets and tablets. Developers nonetheless have been cautious in designing and building apps for Windows 8 due to softening PC sales and doubts about Microsoft's ability to penetrate the mobile industry.
The Redmond, Washington-based company's Windows has been the top platform for desktops and laptops in the past 20 years. But in the mobile segment Google Inc.'s Android and Apple Inc.'s iOS command 60% of the smartphone market and Apple has 70% of the tablet market.
Microsoft has recently shown significant progress in luring mobile device-makers. The Bill Gates-founded company has signed a long-term agreement for Finland-based Nokia Oyj to produce Windows phones. Although Nokia has lost the number one spot to Samsung Electronics and Apple, its first batch of Windows phone models the Lumia has shown better-than-expected sales (4 million units in the last quarter). Aside from Nokia, Android device makers like Samsung and HTC and PC makers such as Lenovo and Dell have committed to produce Windows Surface tablets and/or smartphones.
Microsoft's Windows 8, which has a touch-screen interface, as well as the traditional mouse and keyboard, is attractive to consumers because it offers a unified ecosystem for all computing devices. Rival Apple's OS X platform for its Mac desktops and laptops and iOS for the iPhone and the iPad already share similar features. But Windows 8, which uses a tile-based, flatter and more modern user interface, is taking convergence to a whole new level. Windows 8 apps are designed to operate across different devices. The Windows platform's ability to seamlessly link its ecosystem of devices together will simplify user experience.
Windows already powers more than 1 billion PCs, and majority of the PCs shipped every year run on Windows. Microsoft would be able to make strides in the mobile industry if it's able to entice Windows PC owners to buy a Windows tablet instead of an iPad or an Android tablet.
Microsoft has released Windows 8 to manufacturers and will give Windows 8 developers access to the software Aug. 15. Microsoft will commercially launch Windows 8 and its Surface RT tablet on Oct. 26. OEMs will release new PCs and tablets running on Windows 8 for at the same time.
Microsoft is not late to the party.
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