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This Is Why Your Windows 8 Computer Will Be Unlike Anything You’ve Ever Used Before

by Steve Kovach

samsung windows 8 slate

We’re less than two months away from Microsoft’s Windows 8 launch.

Love it or hate it, it’s going to be huge, likely the biggest operating system launch since XP.

So as the clock ticks down, Microsoft’s hardware partners like ToshibaLenovoHPSamsungDell, and pretty much everyone else are announcing their Windows 8 hardware this week. (That’s because there’s a big conference called IFA going on in Berlin.)

In fact, there are so many product announcements this week, that I don’t even have time to write about them all individually.

But they are important! Seriously. Windows is still the most popular PC operating system on the planet. Chances are you’ll be using it at work or at home within the next year or so.

I’ve been checking out a bunch of Windows 8 devices from various manufacturers in press briefings over the last few weeks. Because of the nature of Windows 8 – its default user interface is designed for touchscreen tablets instead of traditional laptops and desktops – you’re going to see a lot of funky hybrid devices hit the market this fall.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s pretty clear PC manufacturers are still trying to figure out what to do with Windows 8.

There are a lot of cool ideas. But it does seem like most companies are sticking to a handful of common themes. Here’s what you can expect:

Tablet/laptop Hybrids

hp envy windows 8 slate combo

Samsung, HP, and a few others will release Windows 8 tablets that come with a keyboard dock. They’re similar in form and function to the Asus Transformer Prime Android tablet. These devices act as a “normal” laptop when you dock the tablet to the keyboard, meaning you can easily get around Windows 8’s classic “Desktop” mode.

Touchscreen Ultrabooks

I’ve also see a bunch of Ultrabooks that have touchscreens instead of normal displays. At first glance, these Ultrabooks look nearly identical to the Windows 7 machines that have launched throughout the last year or so. But the touchscreens make it easier to get around Windows 8’s new tile-based Start menu. The downside: I find it a bit awkward to reach out and touch a screen that’s sitting at a ~90 degree angle from my desk. However, it’s still a lot better than using your keyboard and mouse to navigate around.

All-In-One PCs With Touchscreens

All-in-one (AIO) PCs are nothing new. The concept was popularized by the Apple’s iMac, but now most PCs are available in that form. This year you’ll see more of the same, but with the added benefit of touchscreens for navigating the Windows 8 Start menu.

Regular Laptops And Ultrabooks

For the budget-conscious, most PC manufacturers will still continue to offer traditional laptops and Ultrabooks running Windows 8. That means no touchscreens. Of course, that’s going to be a bummer for users since Windows 8 can be pretty frustrating to use without a touchscreen until you learn all of Microsoft’s keyboard shortcuts.

Then There Are Some Really Strange Devices

toshiba windows 8 slider

So above you have all the “normal” types of Windows 8 hardware coming this fall. But it doesn’t stop there. Some companies are getting creative – perhaps even a little too creative – with their designs.

Toshiba has a tablet that converts to an Ultrabook by sliding the screen up and over. Dell has this interesting Ultrabook/tablet combo where the screen flips over. Lenovo has a device that lets you fold the screen over backwards, but you still feel the keyboard on the back. (It’s awkward!)

The list goes on and on…

So What Does This All Mean?

It’s pretty clear PC makers haven’t quite figured out what to do with Windows 8 yet. It’ll take some time. Meanwhile, we’re going to see a lot of experimentation with hardware designs.

So far, I think the tablet/keyboard dock combination is the best solution. It gives you the best of both worlds: a thin, light tablet you can take on the go, and a full-fledged Ultrabook PC.

And yes, I’m excited.

This Is Why Your Windows 8 Computer Will Be Unlike Anything You’ve Ever Used Before  

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Microsoft Office a big draw for Windows tablets?

Microsoft Office has been an essential tool for PCs. But how important is it for tablets?

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Microsoft Office. A big advantage for Microsoft Surface, Windows RT, and Intel-based Windows 8 Pro tablets?

Microsoft Office. A big advantage for Microsoft Surface, Windows RT, and Intel-based Windows 8 Pro tablets?

(Credit: Microsoft)

One of the cornerstones of upcoming Windows 8 tabletswill be Microsoft Office, but will that be a deal-maker for buyers?

Any Intel-based Windows 8 Pro tablet — like the one coming from Hewlett-Packard — will be able to run the regular version of Office — just as it runs today on any Intel-based PC.

And, in April, Microsoft preannounced that tablets running the RT version of Windows 8 will come with Office.

While there is speculation that Microsoft will initially ship a “preview” version of Office 2013 RT (upgradeable soon thereafter) and that the RT version will lack a few features, it’s big weapon in Microsoft’s arsenal nevertheless.

Big enough that Google acquired QuickOffice — which offers varying levels of compatibility with MS Office — in June in anticipation of the real version of Office making its way to mobile devices like tablets.

And big enough that getting Office to run reliably on the iPad has been kind of a holy grail. (There’s Microsoft Office 365 but that isn’t necessarily a great solution for the iPad.)

And, needless to say, Office is de rigueur at businesses across the world and it will help Microsoft and its partners market tablets to corporations.

Microsoft Office a big draw for Windows tablets?

Microsoft’s Surface tablet said to come with only Wi-Fi

While the software giant has yet to release full specs on its forthcoming tablet, rumors are circulating that it may be Wi-Fi only and without a mobile network connection.

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Microsoft unveils iPad rival

This product rendering released by Microsoft shows Surface, a 9.3 millimeter thick tablet with a kickstand to hold it upright and keyboard that is part of the device’s cover. It weighs under 1.5 pounds.

Microsoft’s much talked about Surface tablet may be Wi-Fi only, according toBloomberg.

The news agency reports that people familiar with the tablet‘s specs say the device will go on sale without any mobile-phone network connection, but will come with a short-range Wi-Fi connection. This could change in later models.

A brief history of failed Windows tablets
Microsoft’s Surface tablet vs. the iPad: Seven challenges
Google exec: “Surface is a very complicated strategy to pull off”

Surface will be running Microsoft’s next-generation Windows operating system and marks the company’s first foray into the ever-expanding tablet market. Though the software giant has unveiled Surface, it has yet to release all the details on the specifications.

Apparently, the tablet is thought to be a direct competitor to Apple’s iPad. Network accessibility could hinder this goal, however. The new iPad, which went on sale in March, comes equipped with LTE and has the option of a mobile-phone chip, according to Bloomberg. Users can also buy the iPad‘s Wi-Fi-only model if they prefer.

According to Bloomberg, Microsoft plans to start selling the Surface later this year and will be working with Apple’s iPhone-maker, Pegatron, to manufacture the tablet.
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Microsoft introduces Windows Phone 8 for fall release, incompatible with current devices

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Microsoft introduces Windows Phone 8 for fall release, incompatible with current devices

Microsoft has finally and officially removed the wraps from the OS formerly known as Apollo. It’s now just Windows Phone 8 and, at their “sneak peek” event we’re learning a good bit about that OS, and some of the great new hardware support that it offers. But, there’s one thing we want to make clear right away: if you’re currently holding a Windows Phone device you won’t be getting a taste of this action. Well, not unless you buy a new phone, that is. That back and forth about upgrade paths has been proven to be incorrect, as the hardware requirements for WP8 preclude its running on any current WP device — even that hot blue Lumia 900 you got for a steal.

    

And what are those hardware requirements? As detailed here, multi-core processors (up to 64) are now allowable, displays up to WXVGA (1280 x 768) and external storage on SD. This better, faster hardware will enable new, faster games and other demanding apps which, for the first time, can be written in native code. (Well, it’s C/C++, which at least lets developers get out of CLR land.) All this will run on a kernel shared with Windows 8 and Windows RT. In other words: yes, Microsoft has managed to get one platform running on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones, the idea being that apps can be more easily ported from one to the next, promising “games we’ve never seen before” running on your phones.

   

There’s also a new wallet functionality thanks to the NFC support, as detailed here, but reliant on an augmented SIM, not hardware on the phone itself. This means carriers won’t have to remove apps (as we’ve seen with Google Wallet in the past) but they can block support altogether. Nokia maps is nowbuilt into the OS, including offline map support.

This is a big step forward on many levels, but Microsoft is naturally sticking to its roots, promisingenterprise-ready security and support, enabling admins to deploy and restrict apps on corporate-provided phones and manage them remotely. There’s also encryption and secure booting integrated.

It’s all set to arrive this fall, which just so happens to be when Windows 8 (and those fancy new Surface tablets) will start shipping, too.

Follow the liveblog of the event here!

    

Microsoft introduces Windows Phone 8 for fall release, incompatible with current devices

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Windows 8 will come in three flavors

windows_8.jpg

There will be three versions of the new Windows, Microsoft revealed on Monday while confirming Windows 8 to be the official product name.

The Redmond-based company is looking to simplify its product line, cutting the number of editions by more than half since the 2009 release of Windows 7 which came in seven different versions. Windows 8 will arrive in three flavors: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows 8 RT.

“We have worked to make it easier for customers to know what edition will work best for them when they purchase a new Windows 8 PC or upgrade their existing PC,” the company wrote in a blog post.

The breakdowns are fairly straightforward. The regular version of Windows 8 should be fine for most people. “It will include all the features above plus an updated Windows Explorer, Task Manager, better multi-monitor support and the ability to switch languages on the fly,” the blog states.

Windows 8 Pro is for, well, the professionals: tech geeks and businesses, including features for “encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity.”

The final choice, Windows RT, is essentially Windows “Lite,” designed for thin and light notebooks and tablet computers with a focus on touch optimization and battery life.

Microsoft expects to complete work on the new OS this summer, according to a report from Bloomberg, with the final product penciled in to go on sale around October.

Read more: 

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Windows 8 Launch to Include Very Few ARM-Based Tablets, Report Says

By Ian Paul, PCWorld

Microsoft reportedly has a plan to avoid consumer confusion about the differences between Windows 8 tablets based on ARM and x86/x64 chips: Allow very few ARM-based tablets onto store shelves.

When Windows 8 launches, which is expected later this year, there could be fewer than five ARM-based devices available and only three of those would be one-panel touch tablets. Meanwhile, more than 40 different Windows 8 machines using Intel chips will be available at launch, according to Bloomberg. The report did not specify if Intel chips meant the x86/x64 chip architecture (also used by AMD) or actual Intel-branded processors.

Speaking with anonymous sources, Bloomberg said the reason there will so few devices using ARM technology is that Microsoft is holding Windows 8 ARM-based devices to “rigorous quality-control standards.” Also, the company reportedly wants to control the number of ARM devices available during the initial Windows 8 launch.

New Territory for Microsoft

Microsoft is forging into new territory with a version of Windows designed for ARM devices. ARM-based chips are widely used in smartphones and tablets since they tend to be more energy efficient than x86/x64 processors, but Windows has historically been designed primarily for Intel chips.

Many critics, including myself, have wondered how Microsoft will differentiate between ARM- and x86/x64-based tablets since they offer different experiences. ARM-based devices will rely primarily on Microsoft’s new touch-friendly Metro interface in Windows 8, although the devices will also include the traditional Windows desktop. The problem, however, is that legacy Windows desktop software will not work on ARM devices. So downloading AOL Instant Messenger for Windows 7, for example, should work just fine on an Intel-based Windows 8 tablet, but not a device using an ARM-based chip.

Who Will Produce Windows 8 ARM Tablets?

The fact that Microsoft is reportedly allowing just a few ARM-based Windows 8 devices onto store shelves (at least at first) suggests the company is being careful not to confuse users. But which companies will be producing those early ARM tablets is still an open question.

There are reports that Asus and Nokia are planning Windows 8 ARM tablets. Hewlett-Packard may also produce an ARM tablet, but will focus on Intel-based devices first. Dell, Lenovo and Samsung, meanwhile appear to be going with Intel-based tablets.

Bloomberg’s report also says Windows 8 will be ready for launch “around October.” That claim is in line with other reports, as well as Microsoft’s past Windows release schedules. Windows 7 and XP were both released in October, while Vista was released to consumers in January.

[Go to PCWorld’s Windows 8 special section for all the latest news on Microsoft’s newest operating system.]

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