What Does Microsoft Have Up Its Sleeve?

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is set to launch the Consumer Preview (beta) of Windows 8 today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The new operating system is expected to be Microsoft’s most important product launch in decades and comes after a series of ho-hum upgrades to the Windows operating system, such as Windows ME, Vista, and Windows 7.

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In many ways, the new OS is the most exciting Windows offering since Windows 95, which had users queuing up to buy it. So why is everyone so excited for Windows 8?

For one, it incorporates the highly-appreciated Metro interface, which is all about touch screens. Microsoft has also developed a Windows 8 version geared to run on ARM (NASDAQ:ARMH) processors, which are heavily used in most smartphones today.

The OS will support applications that ran on the older versions of Windows, though this interface will, perforce, be limited and not show off the best of Windows 8’s features.

Taking a cue from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Windows 8 applications will get a new ‘ecosystem’ of their own — they will be sold through the all-new Windows Store. App developers will share revenue with Microsoft, which is expected to be less mercenary here than Apple.

The new operating system is crucial for Microsoft which has become an almost also-ran after Apple and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) made massive strides in the computing space, particularly in hand-held devices.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Capel at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com