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4/4/2011
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Windows 8 May Feature Tablet-Friendly UI

Leaked images indicate the next version of Microsoft's OS borrows heavily from Office and offers one-click access to key tools.

Screen shots depicting features that may be part of the next version of Windows have leaked onto the Web and show that the new operating system may borrow some features from other Microsoft products, such as Office.

The screen shots, which were posted over the weekend by Neowin and other tech blogs, reveal that the main user interface for Windows 8, at least in its current build, uses an Office-style ribbon that gives users one-click access to a number of features and commands, such as "Share," "View," and "Copy To Folder."

Pundits are suggesting the design may reflect Microsoft's desire to make Windows 8 a tablet-friendly OS that can compete with Apple's iPad and Google's Android. Earlier this year, Microsoft confirmed that it would build a version of Windows 8 for ARM chips, which have become the processor of choice for most tablet makers due to their light footprint and low power requirements.

Microsoft has not commented on the authenticity of the screen shots. Reaction to the purported redesign was mixed.

"Looks too messy, and needs to be made smaller and fit more," wrote Neowin reader "Ely", in the blog's comments section. "If they make it smaller, and fine tune it then it will be fine. If not, hopefully you can turn it off," the reader said.

Another reader, "Joshie", said the changes are appealing: "Office with ribbon on auto-hide is one of the most pleasant software UIs I've ever come across, and I think it's a great way to bring menus and toolbars together in an ultimately space-saving style."

Microsoft has not provided a firm release date for Windows 8, and estimates by market watchers range from late 2011 to the 2012 back-to-school season. Most observers agree, however, that the company needs to ship a tablet-capable OS as soon as possible before it falls too far behind Apple and Google in one of the tech sector's hottest markets.

Even longtime Microsoft partner Hewlett-Packard, apparently frustrated by Redmond's failure to produce a tablet OS, recently said it planned to build slates around its own WebOS, which it gained through its acquisition of Palm, instead of Windows.

Microsoft shares were up .37%, to $25.58, in early trading Monday.

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