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Microsoft Launches Windows 8, Windows RT, and Surface

October 26, 2012 – by Per Christensson

Windows 8 Today, Microsoft launched the latest version of its desktop operating system, Windows 8, along with Windows RT, a modified version of Windows designed for tablet PCs. The company also began shipping Surface, a tablet engineered and designed exclusively by Microsoft.

Will 8 be great?

Windows 8 is a big deal for Microsoft. While Windows 7 primarily fixed a lot of the performance issues with Windows Vista, Windows 8 has a completely redesigned user interface. Instead of the standard desktop, Windows 8 users will be welcomed by a tile-based interface (formerly called "Metro") that provides one-click access to common programs and tools. Some of the tiles include Internet Explorer, the Microsoft Store, Maps, Weather, SkyDrive, Games, Camera, Music, and Video. Additionally, many of the tiles are dynamically updated (like the Weather, Photos, and Bing tiles) and are personalized for each user.

The new Windows interface is designed to be used with either a touchscreen or a keyboard and mouse. The result is a hybrid operating system that works with both traditional PCs and new touchscreen devices. If you are a "traditional" Windows user, don't worry – you will still have access to the familiar Windows interface, including the standard Windows desktop and Windows Explorer. If you are considering upgrading to Windows 8, you'll be happy to know the new version is only $70 for a physical copy and $40 for a download.

What is RT?

I didn't know what RT stood for, so I looked up the meaning on Microsoft's Windows RT FAQ page. But there was no explanation. I guess it's like Windows XP, where "XP" didn't really stand for anything, but was said to be short for "eXPerience." Some possible meanings for RT that I have come up with include "real time," "real touch," "rapid tablet," "road and track," and "really trippy."

Regardless of what RT means (or doesn't mean), Windows RT is another big bet for Microsoft. It is part of Microsoft's push into the tablet market, where the company has been lagging far behind the past few years. If RT is a success, it will enable Microsoft to compete in an industry that is currently dominated by the iPad, which has over 90% marketshare.

What about Surface?

Microsoft Surface Tablet Speaking of tablets, Microsoft also began shipping their new Surface tablet today. What is especially intriguing about this new tablet is that is it designed and built by Microsoft. Since Microsoft does not manufacture PCs, it is interesting to see the company getting into the tablet hardware market. Perhaps they realized the advantages of having integrated hardware and software (as shown by Apple's success), so they decided to make their own tablet.

While I have not used Surface yet, it looks pretty impressive. The design is simple and sleek and appears to be higher-quality than most of the non-iPad tablets out there. It also has a few cool innovative features like a "kickstand" for standing the tablet upright and an optional cover that has a built-in keyboard. I like how that covers come in different colors, though I'm not thrilled that they cost $119, especially when the cheapest Surface is $499.

What do I think?

Microsoft is making a pretty big gamble with their new products, and I think it's great. I am happy to see Microsoft innovating again and trying new things. Even if they make some mistakes along the way, I still feel that it is better for Microsoft to make an effort to lead, rather than play catchup with their competitors like they have been doing for the past ten years. With this innovative mentality, I believe Microsoft will eventually lead the industry, even if it doesn't happen right away.

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