"We're so happy to be here today and to celebrate the global availability of a new era of Windows and Windows-powered PCs," said Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, at the Windows 8 launch event today in New York. "There is so much excitement and potential for the future of computing to improve how we work, learn and entertain. Windows 8 is a major milestone in the evolution and revolution of computing."
With Windows 7 and prior versions of the OS used by more than 1 billion people, Windows 8 begins a new era of computing "for the next billion people" in a market changed by the rise of tablets and mobility, he said. Microsoft has "reimagined" the OS for this new reality, he added. "The clunky desktop PC has been replaced by more sleek, more powerful, more mobile PCs with vastly more storage and computing [power] at a fraction of the price," he said.
[ See InfoWorld's full coverage of Windows 8: Woody Leonhard on why it's so bad and why we need a new version of Windows 7 instead. • The diehard's guide to Windows 8 • The new breed: Eight innovative Windows 8 PCs • Review: Windows 8 vs. OS X Mountain Lion. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
So far, more than 1,000 tablets and PCs featuring a wide variety of screen sizes, configurations, form factors, and designs have been certified for Windows 8, he said. "Fully capable" Windows 8 PCs will be available for under $300, he said.
Sinofsky also announced the availability of Windows 8 upgrade offers in retail stores and online, as well as the official launch of the online Windows Store, where customers can find new Windows 8 applications built with the new Windows runtime WinRT APIs and tools.
Once the supreme leader of personal computing, Microsoft faces a brave new world in which PCs are losing territory to tablets and smartphones, in which Windows has a minor presence. Since Windows 7 came out in 2009, the world has caught tablet fever. So, Microsoft designed Windows 8 primarily to help the company make a run at the tablet market. Windows Phone 8, expected to be launched next week, is supposed to do likewise in the smartphone market.
Windows is still the dominant PC OS, but PC sales have shrunk. In the third quarter, worldwide unit shipments dropped 8.6 percent year-on-year, a "severe slump" due in part to "pressure" from tablets and smartphones, according to IDC.
Meanwhile, tablets are flying off the shelves. Gartner forecasts worldwide media tablet sales to end users to total 119 million units in 2012, up 98 percent compared with 2011. Gartner expects Apple's iOS to continue its dominance with a projected share of over 61 percent. Windows is expected to ship in only 4.8 million tablets this year.
Making Microsoft's position worse is the BYOD (bring your own device) trend, in which millions of people worldwide now use their personal smartphones and tablets at work. Android phones, iPads and iPhones have invaded workplaces while Microsoft hasn't been able to counterpunch.