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Microsoft launches Windows 8

Touchscreen orientated operating system finally arrives for PCs, laptops and tablets

Microsoft Windows 8 Modern UI

Microsoft's launch of Windows 8 is one of the most radical overhauls of the operating system to ever take place. Microsoft has ditched the familiar start menu and introduced the new Start Screen with its Modern UI made up of tiles, formally called Metro. This brightly coloured interface has been predominantly designed for touch input but also works with a keyboard and mouse. See also: Windows 8 price in the UK.

The Windows desktop is still present, although it has been relegated to the side-lines, and you can still run programs written for older versions of Windows. However, this is possible only on PCs and laptops: Windows 8 RT tablets won't have the traditional Windows desktop at all.

Another major addition is the Windows Store which, in a similar way to Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store, is where apps can be downloaded for Windows 8.

Microsoft said: "We have talked about Windows 8 as Windows reimagined, from the chipset to the user experience. This also applies to the editions available – we have worked to make it easier for customers to know what edition will work best for them when they purchase a new Windows 8 PC or upgrade their existing PC."

Windows 8 will be available in four packages: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows RT and Windows 8 Enterprise. The move dramatically simplifies the broad range of options available when compared to Windows 7. See: How to upgrade to Windows 8.

Windows 8 editions

PCs and tablets running on an x86 processor will come with plain Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. The latter is designed for ' tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals' and offers features like encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity, according to Microsoft.

Windows 8 Enterprise is the option, as you can guess, for businesses with extras such as PC management and deployment, advanced security.

Originally names Windows for ARM, Windows RT is the edition tailored for tablets and, as the name suggests, will come pre-installed on PCs and tablets with ARM chips. It includes touch-optimized desktop versions of the Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

One of the most highly anticipated Windows 8 tablets is Microsoft's own Surface. However, there will be plenty more to choose from courtesy of Microsoft's many partners. See also: Microsoft Surface price in the UK.

Full pricing from Microsoft wasn't available when we went to press. However, online retailer Ebuyer had boxed DVD copies of Windows 8 priced at £76 and Windows 8 Pro at £109. Any consumers who purchased a Windows 7 machine after 2 June can upgrade to Windows 8 for £14.99 under the Windows Upgrade Offer.

Customers currently using Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic and Home Premium will be able to upgrade to either Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. However, those on Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate will only have the option to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro. Those wishing to upgrade from Vista and XP can also do so.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.


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