Microsoft Windows Rumors: ‘Project Threshold’ Release Date Coming In Spring 2015?


Microsoft
Microsoft logo Microsoft

According to a leaked internal email, Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) is planning a major update to all of its Windows operating systems. Codenamed “Threshold,” the update will further unify the Windows platform across PCs, mobile devices and the Xbox One video game console, and could be released in the spring of 2015.

The Xbox One OS, Windows 8.x OS and Windows Phone 8 OS already share many features and are built from a common Windows NT core, but ZDNet reports that Microsoft wants to make them even more similar with Threshold.

Threshold will focus on “high value activities” like Office, Bing and IT management programs and make these products the same across all platforms. Microsoft is reportedly developing a singular app store and tool sets designed to make it easier for developers to create applications for each Microsoft platform.

Threshold falls in line with CEO Steve Ballmer’s announcement in July of a corporate reorganization of Microsoft and a new company mission of “One Microsoft.”

It’s the second codename to come from the “Halo” video game series. Microsoft also borrowed the name “Cortana” from the Xbox franchise to be the codename for its Siri-like personal assistant program.

Microsoft has not confirmed Threshold, and will probably release another update first. Microsoft is rumored to be planning a release an update to Windows 8.1 and the new Windows Phone “Blue” operating system in the spring of 2014.

 

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Windows 8.1: What you need to know (FAQ)


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

One year after the debut of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 is here. It feels significantly less dramatic, but Microsoft’s latest version of its PC operating system has some changes, and some requirements, all its own. If you’re a curious would-be adopter, or a diligent Windows 8 upgrader, read on for some answers to your questions.

What’s new?

 

Last year’s Windows 8 was a brand-new, somewhat jarring operating system aimed at making touch-screen devices, and Windows devices that could convert between touch and keyboard/mouse modes, easier to use.

Windows 8.1 is a series of subtle changes, a software patch of sorts to last year’s software. There are some differences, but most of them seem to exist to appeal to more-traditional PC users — those who want more of a return to the traditional Windows experience. The biggest changes are:

  • You can boot directly into Desktop mode instead of the tile-based app user interface
  • The long-lost Start button is back
  • You can snap more apps side-by-side for better multitasking
  • There’s also better cross-system search, along with search that ties into cloud-based SkyDrive storage

For the full rundown, read CNET’s review. Or, check out our list of the top new features you need to know in Windows 8.1.

 

What’s the different between Windows 8.1 and Windows RT?

 

Windows 8.1 is the “real” Windows OS that runs on PCs and tablets; it includes backward compatibility with most earlier Windows software — programs and games that were designed to run on Windows 7, Vista, and XP. By contrast, Windows RT is a stripped-down version of Windows 8.1 that does not deliver that backward compatibility. (The reason: RT machines run ARM chips rather than full Intel or AMD “x86” CPUs, allowing them longer battery life and cheaper prices.) Instead, Windows RT only runs the apps available in the Windows Store (which, confusingly, is available in both 8.1 and RT). Notably, however, Windows RT includes a free copy of Microsoft Office 2013, which has been designed to run on both versions of Windows.

While there were a handful of devices that ran RT in 2012, so far, the Microsoft Surface andSurface 2 tablets appear to be the only RT machines currently available. (Again, adding to the confusion: the Surface Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablets run full Windows 8.1.)

 

Do I need to buy a tablet to use Windows 8.1?

 

No, you can use any PC, as long as it fits the Windows 8.1 hardware requirements. Touch screens aren’t required. In fact, Windows 8.1 makes it easier: you can stay in “Desktop mode” and just use your PC in a way that (largely) bypasses the touch-friendly tile interface. Even those, should you encounter them, can be navigated with keyboard and mouse/touch pad, however.

Start button!

 

Is the Start button back?

Yes — sort of. The annoying absence of a Start button made easy-access navigation on Windows 8 a confusing chore, but it’s back — although it just provides a shortcut to the tile menu. However, right-clicking it brings up a contextual menu with additional options.

 

How do I get Windows 8.1, and what does it cost?

 

For existing Windows 8 users, Windows 8.1 is a free upgrade. Just go the app store if you’re a Windows 8 user, and start downloading.

If you’re coming from Windows 7 (or an even earlier version of Windows), it can be bought herefor $120, or $200 for the business-targeted pro version. For more step-by-step information, read our how-to guide.

 

What are the system requirements?

 

For the full rundown, click here. But here’s the bare-bones needs:

  • 1GHz or faster processor with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
  • 1GB of RAM for 32-bit computing, or 2GB for 64-bit
  • 16GB of hard-drive space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
  • A Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

 

What’s the ideal system to use with Windows 8.1?

 

Despite the return of the Start button, having a touch screen is still the preferred way to go with Windows 8.1. In the portable realm, look for a tablet (Sony Vaio Tap 11 or Microsoft Surface Pro 2), a convertible laptop (the upcoming Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga), or a touch-screen laptop (theSamsung Ativ Book 9 Plus).

In the desktop world, larger touch-screen all-in-one machines like the Dell XPS One 27 or Sony Vaio Tap 21 are ideal.

 

Should you upgrade to Windows 8.1?

 

My colleague Dan Ackerman said it best in his Windows 8.1 review. If you’re a regular PC user, I’ll repeat in his paraphrased words what you should do:

  • If you’re an existing Windows 8 user, the update is free and largely seamless, and adds some useful new tweaks and features. You should upgrade as soon as possible.
  • If you’re a Windows 7 user thinking of upgrading your legacy hardware, consider keeping with Windows 7 until it’s time for a new PC; those touch-optimized Windows 8 and 8.1 elements won’t do much for you anyway, and Windows 7 still works well with all sorts of applications.

 

Either way, you’ll probably have to get used to Windows 8 eventually, since it’s Microsoft’s PC operating system now. It’s really, however, more of a finishing touch for Windows 8-optimized machines.

The best way to get Windows 8.1? Wait to buy a new PC with Windows 8 or 8.1 installed: it’ll run the software better, and it won’t cost anything extra.

I’m moving on from Windows; what other alternatives are there?

 

 

Windows isn’t the only game in town: you can always opt for a Mac, a tablet (Android, iPad), or aChromebook. There are more choices than ever before; just realize that each of them has relative advantages and disadvantages, and none of them will run your legacy Windows software (unless you invest in a solution like Parallels for Mac).

 

HP warns consumers: Downgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 7 at your own risk, we won’t support you


Those who buy HP Windows 8 PCs and decide they want to downgrade to Windows 7 are in for a shock: Consumers will be on their own if there are Windows-related problems on the machines, and HP won’t offer support.

Update: After this post was written, HP has changed its policy on downgrades from Windows 8 to Windows 7. HP will now support Windows 7 on computers that have been downgraded from Windows 8. HP says:

 

Customers can downgrade to Windows 7 and  you will remain protected by HP product warranties.
However, HP has not tested all Windows 8 platforms for Windows 7 and we may not have your particular drivers available.

Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer first reported HP’s old policy, which can be found in a Windows 8 FAQ on HP’s Web site.

Downgrade rights lets customers revert to an earlier version of Windows at no cost. Typically, enterprises get downgrade right when they buy new machines. As for consumers, only those who buy Windows 8 Pro get downgrade rights.

HP says that if a consumer downgrades from Windows 8 to Windows 7, HP won’t support Windows on it, although it will still support the underlying hardware itself. The HP FAQ warns:

“HP does not recommend downgrading on any HP consumer desktop and notebook products. After October 26, 2012, HP consumer desktop and notebook products will ship only with Windows 8. Windows 7 will not be supported on these new platforms, and no drivers, apps, or Windows 7 content will be available through HP. If users choose to downgrade their HP consumer desktop or notebook system, HP will continue to support the hardware but if there is an issue where HP diagnostics are required OR it is determined that the loaded software or upgrade operating system is causing the issue, HP may suggest returning the system to the original Windows 8 OS that shipped with the computer.”

In other words, if you run into trouble on Windows 7 on the machines, you’re on your own.

Typically, downgrade rights aren’t much of an issue with Windows PCs. But Windows Vista caused so many problems that some users downgraded to XP. Windows 7 was well-received, though, and downgrading wasn’t an issue.

It’s too early to know whether Windows 8 will generate a backlash like Windows Vista did. But if buyers of HP Windows 8 Pro machines decide to downgrade to Windows 7, they’re on their own.

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Linux Mint 14 released: It’s like Windows 8, minus the bad bits


Linux Mint 14 Nadia Cinnamon Desktop

The developers behind the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint distribution have announced the immediate availability of Mint 14 (Nadia). The new release brings a number of incremental under-the-hood improvements and tweaks. It combines the Linux 3.5 kernel, Ubuntu 12.10 base, and the latest versions of the MATE 1.4 and Cinnamon 1.6 desktop environments. The edition of Linux Mint 14 with the Cinnamon desktop is particularly interesting as it has created a hybrid between Ubuntu’s HUD interface and the traditional Gnome UI that is as usable and fluid as ever.

As a result of Mint being based upon the Ubuntu distribution, many of the back-end features present in Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal are carried over to the new Mint release. That includes the Linux 3.5.0-17 kernel, which in turn is based on the upstream 3.5.5 kernel. You will not find Unity or Gnome 3 in this Mint distribution, however. Instead, Mint offers MATE 1.4 — the continuation of Gnome 2 — and Cinnamon 1.6 along with Gnome Classic that are all selectable from the log-in screen.

The distro also includes the codecs necessary to play MP3 files and DVDs out of the box. GIMP 2.6, LibreOffice 2.6.2.2, Firefox 17, and VLC 2.0.4 also come pre-installed among other traditional Linux programs like the Banshee music application, Pidgin IM client, and Transmission BitTorrent client. The Software Manager has also been tweaked so that it runs as root, and does not require entering your password every time you choose to install each individual application. Further, according to the Linux Mint developers, it uses its own apt-get daemon that is fully supported by debconf meaning you will no longer have to use Synaptic to get certain packages (like Wine). You can stick with Mint’s own Software Manager.

Cinnamon 1.6 User Interface (notable improvements and tweaks)

The big changes to Mint 14 lie in the front-end GUIs that power the OS, and specifically the latest iteration of Cinnamon. The Cinnamon 1.6 desktop environment has been overhauled with more than 800 changes, according to the changelog. One of the main changes in the 1.6 release is the inclusion of a new GUI file browser called Nemo built specifically for Cinnamon. It is similar in layout to Microsoft’s Explorer (minus the ribbon) with shortcuts on the left panel and folder contents on the right. Out of the box, shortcuts include links to documents, music, downloads, videos, trash, individual (mounted) hard drives, and networked devices. Windows users will likely miss the inclusion of a My Computer equivalent shortcut on the left-hand side, but that can be added by navigating to Computer using the button (to the right of the refresh and home buttons) on the toolbar and then in the top menu bar clicking on Bookmarks > Add Bookmark.

Overall, it works well and has similar functionality to Windows Explorer or Nautilus in Ubuntu, and it our testing it was comparable speed-wise in navigating through heavily populated directories. Curiously, it does not support thumbnail images for JPEG photos by default but handles PNG files without issue (and if you take the file extension off all together it will generate a thumbnail).

Linux Mint 14 Nemo File Browser

Additionally, Mint has added an overlay called the Workspace On-Screen Display (OSD) that allows switching among different workspaces (think of them like virtual desktops). You can add as many workspaces as you want while giving each one a unique name. Best of all, you can drag windows between workspaces, and have your settings persist across reboots. Unfortunately, like Windows 8, Mint uses a hot corner to activate the Workspace OSD, and it is not made obvious to the user that the feature is available. By default, mousing over to the top-left corner of your main display will bring up the OSD where you can manage your different desktops/workspaces. Once you figure out how to access it, however, it works really well.

Unlike Modern UI/Metro, you can use Mint without ever seeing the OSD unless you want to use it, which is nice, but I would have liked to see it at least presented as an available option during installation — and to have been told how to access it. (I had to go to an online forum to figure out how to open it, which does not speak highly for the feature’s intuitiveness.)

Workspace OSD in Linux Mint 14 Nadia

The panel (Windows taskbar equivalent) along the bottom of the screen holds (from left to right) the Menu button, open windows in the current workspace, applets, the clock, and a Window Quick-List button to view all your open application windows (sorted by workspaces). The Menu button brings up a Windows Start menu equivalent that lets you search for applications, access important folders, and change system settings. Favorite shortcuts can be pinned to the left of the menu while the Lock, Logout, and Shutdown buttons occupy the bottom-left corner. If you have used the Start menu in Windows Vista or 7, you will be right at home using the Mint Menu. On the right of the panel are applets, which are small programs similar to Windows Gadgets except that they generally stay docked in the bar and open on mouse hover or click.

One of the updated applets that Mint is promoting is the Music applet, which allows you to control the Banshee music player. It shows album art, track data, and playback controls. The Notifications applet and alt-tab application switcher have also been updated.

Linux Mint Cinnamon Start Menu

With Mint 14 and Cinnamon 1.6 you have a graphical interface that keeps the traditional taskbar with a Start (Mint Menu) Button while introducing new UI features like the Workspace OSD. You get the best of both worlds, and if you are still not pleased, Mint makes it extremely easy to switch to MATE (Gnome 2 successor) or Gnome Classic. You are free to use either UI and customize to your heart’s content, and that freedom of choice is a welcome feature of the Mint distribution.

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How to test-drive Windows 8 for free in VirtualBox


Upgrading to a new operating system can be an intimidating undertaking that massively disrupts your daily workflow. And considering the dramatic interface changes introduced in Windows 8, you may not want to invest in Microsoft’s latest OS without first giving it a thorough shakedown.

Fortunately, there’s an easy, hassle-free way to test-drive Windows 8. Using a program called VirtualBox and the evaluation version of Windows 8 Enterprise, you can try out the new OS for free, without disturbing your current operating system. Read on—we’ll show you how.

Important considerations

For this project, you’ll need to use the evaluation version of Windows 8 Enterprise, which you can download directly from Microsoft at the MSDN Evaluation Center website. There are a few things you should know about the evaluation edition, but you might want to start the download now—at 3.4GB, it will take a while.

Wording on the download page identifies it as “Windows 8 evaluation for developers,” but anyone who has a Microsoft account (such as a free Hotmail or Live account) can download the software and try it out. The download link is at the very bottom of the page. Simply select the 32- or 64-bit version of the operating system, log in, and fill out a brief questionnaire. Just like that, you’re downloading Windows 8!

IMAGE: MICROSOFT
The Windows 8 logo.

Of course, Microsoft doesn’t give away Windows for free, and this evaluation version has a couple of major limitations. First, the trial period expires in 90 days—at which point the OS will automatically shut down after every 60 minutes of use.

Second, you can’t upgrade from the evaluation version of Windows 8 Enterprise to a full version of Windows 8. Instead, you have to uninstall it completely and start over with a non-evaluation version of the OS. Every app you’ve installed, and every file you’ve tinkered with, will be obliterated when the trial ends and you install another operating system. So back up your data! The bottom line is that you shouldn’t use the evaluation version of Windows 8 Enterprise as your main operating system, which is why we recommend installing it in a virtual machine.

On the plus side, Windows 8 Enterprise packs some nifty features that you won’t find in the vanilla version of Windows 8, including BitLocker encryption, Hyper-V virtualization, and the intriguing Windows to Go, which allows the OS to boot from removable storage. You also get IT-friendly tools such as BranchCache and AppLocker support. Though some of those tools are come with with Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise users can’t download the Pro version’s $10 Windows Media Center pack (sorry, CableCard lovers). Wikipedia has a handy chart comparing the features available for the different editions of Windows 8, including Windows RT.

While the Windows 8 ISO downloads, you should also download the latest version of VirtualBox for Windows. Run the installer, and choose the default settings for all of the install options. If you already have VirtualBox installed on your system, you can make sure that it’s current by clicking the Help menu at the top of the screen and selecting Check for Updates. Older versions don’t offer native support for Windows 8, and VirtualBox’s latest releases have greatly improved system usability while running Windows 8 on a virtual machine.

Set up your virtual PC

You’ll need to create a new virtual PC for your Windows 8 installation. Start by clicking theMachine menu at the top of VirtualBox and selecting New. Next you’ll walk through a couple of simple configuration menus that will define your virtual PC’s “hardware.”

The first step down the road to a Windows 8-based virtual PC is to select ‘New’ in VirtualBox’s Machine dropdown menu.

The first menu will ask you to give your virtual PC a name, and to choose the operating system you’ll be installing. Choose Windows 8, either ’32-bit’ or ’64-bit’, depending on the ISO that you downloaded earlier.

Next you must specify how much RAM to allocate to the virtual machine. To get good performance in the 64-bit version of Windows 8, Microsoft recommends having at least 2GB dedicated to it; we advise you to allocate at least 4GB, if possible. Bear in mind that VirtualBox will consume that memory while it’s running. If devoting that much memory to the virtual setup would cripple your physical PC, you may not be able to run Windows 8 smoothly—or you might do better to run the 32-bit version of Windows 8, which requires only 1GB of RAM.

VirtualBox presents you with a slider bar for allocating RAM to your virtual machine.

Yes, VirtualBox will let you run a virtual 32-bit operating system even if your physical processor is 64-bit. Whichever version of the OS you use, it will run better with more RAM, though the 32-bit version of Windows can only handle no more than 4GB of memory maximum.

After you’ve allocated the RAM, clickCreate a virtual hard drive now. VirtualBox will ask you how much of your hard disk space it should use to create the virtual PC’s hard drive. For the file type to use, choose VDI. You must also decide whether to allocate your virtual hard drive dynamically or all at once. The latter is better for performance, but it will use up all of the space on your host drive at once. We recommend choosing the dynamic option.

Next, you must allocate enough storage space to install the operating system and have some room left over for applications. You can probably get away with allocating Microsoft’s 20GB minimum, but we’d opt for VirtualBox’s recommended 25GB, just to be safe. If you plan to try out a lot of apps or desktops programs, set aside even more space if you have it available.

One final way of improving your virtual machine’s performance is to give it additional virtual processor cores. You can do this only if your processor supports hardware virtualization, so check the specs on your model to see whether virtualization is listed as a feature. If it is, click first the Settings button, and then the System menu. Click the Processor tab, and drag the Processors slider to the right to increase the number of cores available for Windows 8. As with RAM, don’t allocate all of your CPU cores to the virtual machine unless you want your main desktop OS to chug when Windows 8 is up and running.

Install Windows 8

In the Storage settings, click the empty CD slot under the Controller: IDE entry in the Storage Tree, and then click the CD icon on the far right side of the screen.

Your virtual PC should now be set up. The next step is to put the install disc in the drive, figuratively speaking. Click the Settings button, and navigate to the Storage settings, using the left-side navigation panel. There, click the empty CD slot under the Controller: IDE entry in the Storage Tree, and then click the button marked with a CD icon on the far right side of the screen. A file browser window will pop up; in it, find and select the Windows 8 ISO that you downloaded. Don’t move the ISO once the virtual machine is configured—otherwise, Windows 8 won’t work.

At this point you’re ready to fire up the virtual PC for the first time. Select the virtual machine you just created, and click the green Start arrow. A new window will open, and soon you should see the Windows 8 install screen. If you see an error message instead, and you’ve chosen to allocate virtual CPU cores to the machine, enable your CPU’s virtualization option in the system BIOS; then try booting the virtual machine again.

Windows 8 installs in a jiffy (for a Microsoft operating system).

From here, you’ll work through the simple installer, agreeing to the terms of service, selecting an install location, and choosing whether to do an upgrade or a clean install. Choose the clean install option.

Windows will unpack and install the necessary files, and when it’s done your virtual PC will restart. At that point, Windows 8 proper will start up, and you’ll have to complete a brief configuration process. Select a name and color scheme for your computer, and enter your Microsoft account information. Now you’re ready to use Windows 8 for the low, low price of absolutely free.

…and we have virtual liftoff!

Apart from the two important limitations mentioned at the beginning of this article, the evaluation version of Windows 8 has all the same features as the full version, so you can install software and do anything else that you’d do in the final version of the OS. (Why not give Xbox Music a spin?) We found that the Windows Store frequently timed out in the virtual machine, but that didn’t prevent us from downloading and running apps; clicking ‘Try Again’ after a time out always loaded the desired screen in short order.

If you try Windows 8 and decide that you don’t like it, note that VirtualBox can run a ton of major Linux releases using the same basic setup procedure. Feel free to give the dork side a whirl at your leisure.

 

 

Windows 8’s Big Day (THE RELEASE)


It’s a big day for Microsoft, as the company gets set to launch Windows 8, the biggest change in years for its flagship operating system.

Windows 8 moves Windows into new directions. It can run on traditional PC processors as well as those traditionally used in phones and tablets. It is designed to be equally at home on a touchscreen slate as on a desktop PC with keyboard and mouse.

The move is also Microsoft’s effort to regain ground lost to the iPad in the tablet arena.

One of the key concerns, though, is that Windows 8 introduces a new kind of apps, and many programs for both PCs and mobile devices have yet to make their way to the new Windows Store.

AllThingsD will have live coverage from the New York launch event, which is due to kick off in about 20 minutes. The software itself, along with new PCs running the operating system, is set to go on sale Friday.

In the meantime, here’s Walt Mossberg’s review of the operating system, and of theSurface RT tablet.

8:11 am: We’re probably about five minutes away from the start. To set the scene, we’re at Pier 57, near the edge of the Chelsea Piers in Manhattan.

8:18 am: Lights dim. “The World is Ready” in white type on a black screen. Cue video.

There’s a spinning globe, then a brief clip of Windows boss Steven Sinofsky at the China launch of Windows 8, from earlier this week.

Lots of people from around the world, interspersed with clips from Microsoft’s developer events, and shots of Windows 8 in action.

Onstage now is Sinofsky. Mostly recapping. Windows 7 has sold 670 million licenses so far.

The world is really different now than it was a while ago, etc.

“In creating Windows 8, we shunned the incremental,” Sinofsky said. We boldly reimagined Windows.

8:24 am: Sinofsky now talking about the 650 pages worth of blogs written about the development of Windows 8 (the longest of which he penned personally).

If you are familiar with Windows 8, most of this is old hat. But, while we are going through it, I’ll summarize the basics.

Windows 8 has two modes: The desktop, which looks a lot like Windows 7, and a new-look Start menu that links to both classic Windows apps as well as a new breed of touch-centric apps designed specifically for the new OS.

8:28 am: Starting at 12:01 am, the software is available as a $39 downloadable upgrade for Windows 7 users, as well as on new computers.

Sinofsky notes that Windows 8 has been through 1.24 billion hours of public testing

“No product anywhere receives this level of external usage and testing prior to release,” Sinofsky said.

There are more than 1,000 PCs certified to run the new operating system.

Full-featured Windows 8 PCs will start at under $300, Sinofsky said — less than most tablets.

8:31 am: Sinofsky is talking about apps — perhaps the biggest question mark when it comes to Windows 8.

“We’re just getting started today,” Sinofsky said. The company isn’t giving out an official number, but it is estimated that by the end of the week there will be somewhere around 10,000 apps globally.

8:32 am: Peeking at the logos behind Sinofsky … Vimeo, Kindle, FX, Kobo, Rakuten, Box, PopSci, CW, USA Today are some of the logos I see — we’ll have a photo soon of the slide.

Netflix and Hulu are there, too.

8:34 am: Now Sinofsky is talking about Windows RT, which runs on ARM-based processors from companies such as Nvidia and Qualcomm.

So far, Windows RT machines are being made by Asus, Lenovo, Dell, Samsung and Microsoft itself — with Surface RT.

Sinofsky is clarifying that, unlike Windows 8 PCs, RT machines only run built-in apps — Office, as well as those designed for the new Windows Store.

8:36 am: Windows RT can use existing peripherals, though, Sinofsky notes, including all the best-selling printers. In total, there are 420 million existing devices that will connect to Windows RT devices.

Microsoft had a tighter-than-normal partnership with chip and hardware makers when it came to Windows RT — limiting the number of hardware makers that any one chipmaker could work with.

8:37 am: Now onstage are Windows executives Mike Angiulo and Julie Larson-Green to show off some of the Windows 8 PCs.

But first, another video.

8:38 am: First up, the duo are showing off Windows 8 running on existing Windows 7 PCs.

Larson-Green logs in by touching specific places on a picture of her kids — a new option with Windows 8.

“Windows 8 is really easy,” Larson-Green said. “Everything you need is right under your thumbs.”

Built-in Xbox Music service offers free streaming of 30 million songs.

“It’s a really great update for all Windows 7 PCs,” Larson-Green said.

Angiulo shows Windows 8 running on a Lenovo X1 Ultrabook, which he said boosts start-up time by 33 percent on that device.

Importantly, desktop apps and new-style apps can be run side by side.

They demo Excel 2013 running alongside a weather app. Colleague Lauren Goode says she can’t remember ever seeing two people so excited about Excel.

Angiulo talks up Windows Phone 8, and the experience. (Of course, plug in an iPhone to a Windows RT machine, and all it can do is charge the device.)

8:46 am: It’s PC show and tell time. First up, an Intel-powered device from Acer and Lenovo’s ThinkPad Tablet 2. Lots of adjectives.

8:49 am: There are PCs in all shapes and sizes, laptops, tablets, convertibles, all-in-ones.

8:50 am: More app logos: Lots of magazines and newspapers and TV stations.

On to Windows RT — PCs that will offer better battery life, improved security. Microsoft is showing off five machines, starting with Lenovo’s flexible Yoga device (a version of which was first shown at CES back in January).

There’s also Dell’s XPS 10 and Samsung’s Ativ Tab, which Larson-Green says has 12 hours of battery life. Asus has its Vivo Tab RT and, last, there’s Microsoft Surface.

(Microsoft is being smart by touting its partners’ machines first, though we’ll be hearing a lot more about Surface later today.)

8:56 am: PC show and tell is done, and it’s time for another video.

8:57 am: CEO Steve Ballmer takes the stage

“It really is an exciting, exciting day,” Ballmer booms.

“Windows 8 shatters perceptions on what a PC really is,” Ballmer said.

Ballmer notes that the home screen is personal, with the apps, Web sites and people that matter most to whoever is using it.

By logging into a new Windows PC with a Microsoft account, lots of your information just flows down to the machine.

“It will all be there — everything and everybody that you care about,” Ballmer said.

Lots of great PCs, Ballmer said. “For the first time, though, Windows also has first-rate tablets in addition to desktops and notebooks.”

9:03 am: Ballmer gushing more, noting how many different parts of the company went into Windows 8, including Bing, MSN, SkyDrive, Skype and Xbox.

Oh, and Office.

9:06 am: Ballmer: “Are these new designs PCs? Yes. Are these new designs tablets? Yes.”

9:08 am: Now Ballmer is talking up Windows 8’s entertainment chops, including a SmartGlass feature that links a Windows 8 machine with Xbox and the Xbox video, music and movie services.

Enterprises will also like it, Ballmer promised.

Ballmer also promises more to come from Microsoft on the business front, relative to Windows 8.

Windows Phone, meanwhile, works in a similar way to the new desktop OS, Ballmer said, highlighting the similarities from that. (Microsoft is having a separate Windows Phone 8 event on Monday.)

Ballmer talking up the opportunity for software makers, noting that there are 670 million PCs just waiting to be upgraded to Windows 8.

Analysts forecast sales of another 400 million new PCs, most of which will run Windows 8. Those are big numbers, Ballmer said, even in a market known for big numbers.

We’ve grown very fond of this term “Windows reimagined,” Ballmer said. “You’ve heard it today, and you are going to see it in our ads.”

“Windows 8 does bring together the best of the worlds — PCs, tablets, work and play,” Ballmer said.

But, he said, people won’t take his word, and they shouldn’t. Go out and see the new PCs and touch them, he said, heading offstage.

I think this is it for this part of the event. There will be more from here, but not for a bit, so I will stop the liveblog and update you later with any other news.

 

Windows 8 release date is October 26


The window start page

Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8, will launch on October 26, the company has confirmed.

Writing on the official ‘Blogging Windows’ site, Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc said that “Steven Sinofsky [Microsoft’s head of Windows] announced at Microsoft’s annual sales meeting that customers will be able to get Windows 8 – whether in upgrade fashion or on a new PC – starting on October 26”.

The software giant had previously said that Windows 8 would be available in October, but had not confirmed the date.

The new Windows 8 software includes an interface primarily for tablet computers, which Microsoft calls Metro, as well as an enhanced version of the existing Windows 7. Microsoft has described the update as its most radical, and is even producing its own range of computers, called Surface, to showcase it. It hopes to challenge Google and Apple for the dominance of the tablet category.

The latest trial version of the software, release Preview, expands on the Consumer Preview that Microsoft released in Barcelona earlier in the year, and is available free for users to download and test. Users are warned, however, that the free test expires and will entirely replace the existing Windows operating system.

Gabriel Aul, Director of Windows Programme Management, told the Telegraph that the release preview software was “all of what will be in the final product in terms of big features”. He added, however, that colours and themes were yet to be finalised.

The new software is designed to work as well on tablets as on traditional computers, and will replace Microsoft Windows 7, which has sold 525 million copies since it was released three years ago. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has already talked of 500million machines running Windows 8 within a year.
The Metro interface borrows heavily from Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, while Microsoft has also redesigned the traditional ‘Start’ button, replacing it with a much more angular design that changes colour depending on which theme a user chooses. The Start menu has become an entire, customisable homescreen, and in desktop mode the Start button is no longer a permanent fixture