"Windows 8 will deliver no compromise experiences on a range of devices from tablets and PCs to desktops," said Turner. "It will give people functionality they love and the enterprise-grade capabilities that IT departments demand."
Microsoft made a fairly polished beta version of Windows 8 freely available last week in the form of a Consumer Preview. "We encourage IT professionals to begin using it to get a first-hand experience of how Windows 8 will give people a beautiful, fast, and fluid experience with the mobility and familiarity they need to effortlessly move between what they want to do and what they need to do," said Turner.
[ What else is Microsoft doing for the enterprise? Read Windows Server 8: 8 Key Facts. ]
Windows 8 will be available in two versions when it launches, most likely later this year. One version will run on x86 PCs, laptops, and slates or tablets powered by Intel or AMD chips, and will offer users the choice of working in the familiar Windows Explorer desktop or in the new, touch-centric Metro mode. The other version will run on tablets that run Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, or Nvidia chips based on the ARM reference design, and will only offer the Metro interface.
Turner said Microsoft expects businesses to find a home for both types of devices as workers demand mobility while on the road and full productivity while in the office. "Should I have touch or a mouse and a keyboard? Depending on the job function, the answer is yes and yes," said Turner. "Should I have security or should I let people bring their own technology to work? In the past the answer would be no, but now it is yes and yes."
Turner added that, "With Windows 8, it doesn't require you to make that compromise. When you ask should I or shouldn't I, we replaced the 'or' with 'and'."
The Windows 8 launch comes at a critical time for Microsoft. While it was once a given that workers around the world would log in to a Windows-based PC to begin their workday, the blossoming of new smart devices like tablets and smartphones has put that assumption in question. An increasing number of companies are allowing workers to choose their own computing devices, and many are opting for non-Windows machines, such as Apple's iPad or tablets that use Google's Android operating system.
IDC analyst Al Gillen said that, with its ability to stretch across desktop and tablet form factors while maintaining compatibility with existing corporate security and management infrastructures, Windows 8 could help Microsoft limit the extent to which non-Windows devices eat into its share of the enterprise OS market.
"We believe Windows 8 will bring an evolutionary solution to Windows users that delivers business productivity, while helping IT to manage and secure new devices," said Gillen.
Microsoft has yet to formally announce a ship date and pricing details for the various versions of Windows 8.
Windows is currently a nobody in the tablet market. That could change with the release of Windows 8, the first version designed for touch screens and the tablet form factor. With the new Metro user interface, Microsoft will try to serve both tablet and desktop markets. Can it succeed? Find out at our Byte webcast, What Impact Will Windows 8 Have On The Tablet Market?. It happens March 14. (Free registration required.)