Microsoft Goes Mobile With Windows 8

Available later this year, Microsoft's Windows 8 is an operating system designed for mobile computing. It's built for a world of tablets and touch, and represents a huge departure for a company struggling to keep up with Apple and Google in mobile technology.

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Microsoft' is gearing up for what's described as its most important product launch in 17 years. Windows 8 re-imagines what working with a Microsoft device feels like. The company hopes this new operating system will help Microsoft break into the world of mobile devices, where it's fallen far behind its rivals Apple and Google.

NPR's Steve Henn reports.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: For decades, Microsoft and Intel dominated the personal computing industry by working hand-in-hand. Microsoft wrote software designed to run on Intel's chips and Intel powered almost all personal computers. But when the computing world went mobile with the iPhone, the iPad and Android, Microsoft's Windows platform was left in the dust. And really, to understand why, you have to get inside these machines.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC FROM INTEL AD)

HENN: Those Intel chips in your old PC are kind of like gas-guzzling muscle cars from the 70s - fast and powerful, but inefficient. Mobile phones and tablets need chips that run mote like a Prius. They need chips that sip juice from a battery, instead of swilling it.

Wednesday, at a trade show in Barcelona, Microsoft unveiled its newest operating system: Windows 8. It still works with Intel, but it will also run on energy-efficient arm chips.

BRENDAN BARNICLE: I think the thing that was really compelling is the number of devices that you saw.

HENN: Brendan Barnicle is an analyst who follows Microsoft at Pacific Crest Securities.

BARNICLE: You know, you saw some enormous monitors, incredible ultra thin laptops, lots of variations in tablets.

HENN: Windows 8 works with a mouse or a touch screen on a tablet or a PC.

BARNICLE: And the key thing for Microsoft with the move to the tablet is it's going to be their way to move into the phone. Almost the exact opposite of what we saw Apple do. Where Apple took the experience on the iPhone and then expanded it out on to the iPad, Microsoft is doing just the opposite. They're hoping that your experience on their tablet is going to be so good that you may reconsider looking at their phone.

HENN: Microsoft won't ship Windows 8 until later this year. But if you're curious, you can download a consumer preview right now.

Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley.

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