Microsoft system a marked change for users
Software giant Microsoft is expected to have its biggest day in nearly two decades on October 26.
Microsoft New Zealand is launching the latest version of its Windows operating system, the touch-optimised Windows 8, at a special breakfast event in Auckland.
Windows 8 is the biggest thing to hit personal computers since Microsoft replaced the Microsoft disk operating system Windows 3.1 some 17 years ago with Windows 95, which introduced the graphic user interface that has been an integral part of the way every version of the Windows operating system has looked and operated since.
I've been running the free consumer preview version of Windows 8 on non-touch optimised computer hardware for months, a traditional HP Pavilion desktop and laptop computer as well as on a media centre I built, and will be forced to buy the version released to market some time after October 26.
I've also tried the consumer preview on a touch-optimised machine, the Samsung Series 7 tablet, which Microsoft loaned me after inviting me to a full-on Windows 8 demonstration day in Amsterdam in June.
Using Windows 8 on such hardware is a very different experience to interacting with it using a mouse and keyboard. And you touch a different part of the screen with your finger, than where you hover your mouse to do the same job.
I am looking forward to all the improvements on Windows 7, which I rate as the best version of Windows so far, and discovering whether the final version of Windows 8 improves upon it.
Once you get past the live tiles new startup screen - Microsoft was calling Metro before a legal challenge forced it to drop the name - Windows 8 is basically a redesigned Windows 7 with extra features.
Microsoft has a couple of other releases tied to Windows 8 in the wings - the Microsoft Surface Windows 8 tablet and the Windows Phone 8 smartphone operating system - but is refusing to talk about them in New Zealand.
It's like a doting parent keeping quiet, as its offspring yack about how far away Christmas is and what they are getting.
Gone are the days of openly talking about all products ahead of release. We are now in an era where the company trickles information to the market in a bid to foster anticipation and excitment. It works for Apple and the Apple fanboys who queue to buy the next bit of tech with an Apple stamped on it just because.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer surprised staff when he announced Microsoft was going into the hardware market about five months ago, when he detailed the Windows 8 Surface tablets.
The company will make a lower specification Windows 8 Surface RT tablet, which will only run applications from the online Windows 8 Store.
It will also make a full-blown Windows 8 tablet that will also process any applications Windows XP and Windows 7 run.
The Microsoft Surface RT is launching overseas at the same time as Windows 8, but Microsoft New Zealand has no information on whether it will be released here.
The launch of Windows Phone 8 is a little more complicated, since it's tied to hardware manufacturers such as Nokia and HTC who have already announced some handsets with the new smarthphone operating system on it.
It's likely these new phones will be available in New Zealand before Christmas.