Upcoming BUILD conference and new blog will give developers and users first insights into what Redmond calls a "reimagined" operating system.
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Microsoft plans to disclose new details about the architecture and capabilities of its forthcoming Windows 8 operating system in the coming weeks to prepare developers and users for what it calls the most significant overhaul of its OS since it released Windows 95 -- which introduced the Task Bar, Start menu, and other iconic features -- more than 15 years ago.
"Building the next release of Microsoft Windows is an industry-wide effort that Microsoft approaches with a strong sense of responsibility and humility," said Windows division president Steven Sinofksy, in a blog post Tuesday. "Windows 8 reimagines Windows for a new generation of computing devices, and will be the very best operating system for hundreds of millions of PCs, new and old, used by well over a billion people globally."
Sinofsky made his comments on Microsoft's new Building Windows 8 blog, which the exec said will be a forum through which Redmond will share details and receive feedback on the software. "In the next few weeks we will just start talking specific features," said Sinofsky.
What won't appear is talk about capabilities or features that Microsoft isn't confident will be in the final version. "We've heard people express frustration over how little we've communicated so far about Windows 8. We've certainly learned lessons over the years about the perils of talking about features before we have a solid understanding of our ability to execute," Sinofsky said.
Developers will get their first hands-on look at the OS next month at Microsoft's BUILD conference in Anaheim, Calif. It's expected the company will launch Windows 8 in the first half of 2012, though an exact date has not been confirmed.
Microsoft has already revealed that Windows 8 will give users the option of working with a touch interface not unlike the "Live Tiles" display that is the foundation of Windows Phone 7. Live Tiles pushes real-time information from email, text, social networks, and other services to the home screen.
Microsoft also said that, with the introduction of Windows 8, for the first time the OS will be forked across two paths -- one that runs on standard x86 chips from Intel and AMD, and one that runs on ARM's system-on-a-chip architecture for tablets and smartphones.
Sinofsky said the decision to split Windows reflects the fact that mainstream computing now extends beyond the desktop. "Today, more than two out of three PCs are mobile (laptops, netbooks, notebooks, tablets, slates, convertibles, etc.). Nearly every PC is capable of wireless connectivity. Screen sizes range from under 10" to wall-sized screens and multiple HD screens," Sinofsky wrote.
Critics have chastised Microsoft for being slow to adapt Windows to new form factors like tablets, and some question whether the company can still be a player in that market, given significant head starts by Apple and Google. Sinofsky said Windows 8 will put those doubts to rest.
"Rest assured we've engineered changes across the full range of Windows capabilities," he said. BUILD runs Sept. 13 through 16 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
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