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Microsoft Introduces Windows 8, Marking A 'New Era'

Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, put the release of the company's new operating system in dramatic terms: "Windows 8 shatters perceptions of what a PC truly is," he said during an introductory event in New York.

Windows 8, Ballmer said, "marks a new era" for Microsoft.

Essentially, Windows 8 is a radical remake of the well-known computer system. The start screen that most of us are familiar with has been traded in for a "tile" system that's similar to what we've seen on iPhones. It's a change that makes the operating system friendlier to touch technology, but it's also the biggest change to the industry-standard software in 17 years. Another big change: Microsoft is introducing an applications store, that mirrors Apple's App Store.

PC World already has a lengthy review of the new software. Here's their bottom line:

"Love it or hate it, Windows 8 is ushering in a new era of cloud-connected Microsoft services, a unified user interface, and more-robust social media interaction. Younger users may find Windows 8 more attractive than some old-school computer users will. It's a risk that Microsoft needed to take to try to remain relevant in today's connected, mobile world. Only time will tell whether it's the right risk at the right time.

"Windows 8 isn't for everyone. If you're mostly a desktop PC user comfortable with Windows 7, upgrading to Windows 8 is probably not worthwhile. If you're a mobile user who needs easy access to the complete Microsoft ecosystem, including SkyDrive, Windows 8 is definitely a good fit. If your needs lie somewhere between those two extremes, give Windows 8 a close look; the cost is low, but you'll need to learn your way around the new Start screen and make sure that your existing software runs well in the new OS."

On the business side, Windows 8 is incredibly important. For Ballmer, the AP reports, it's "make-or-break."

What's at stake? The AP reports:

"If it flops, the failure will reinforce perceptions that Microsoft is falling behind competitors such as Apple, Google andAmazon as its stranglehold on personal computers becomes less relevant in an era of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

"If Ballmer is right, Windows 8 will prove that the world's largest software maker still has the technological chops and marketing muscle to shape the future of computing."

Ballmer told Reuters that Microsoft is "all in on this." He added that 10,000 applications are available beginning tomorrow, when the software goes on sale.

"You'll find these things everywhere this holiday season. You walk into any retailer that sells electronics, other than an Apple retailer, you will see Windows 8 machines all over the place from Acer, from Samsung, from Dell, from Toshiba, Sony, Lenovo and many others," Ballmer told Reuters.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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