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Even as it teased the features of Windows 8 to a stadium
full of its channel partners assembled in Los Angeles’ Staples Center,
Microsoft was still hawking Windows 7, pointing out that more than 200 million
PCs are still running Windows XP, an operating system launched in 2001.

Microsoft’s Tami Reller, corporate vice president and chief financial
officer of Windows and Windows Live, told partners that Windows 7 is the path
to Windows 8 and promised that Windows 8 and future OSes from Microsoft would
mark a change, keeping systems requirements flat or reducing them over time (as
previously announced). That means that current and future Windows 7 users will
be able to upgrade to Windows 8 without a hit in performance due to hardware
limitations of a previous generation.

“Windows 8 will adapt to make the most of the users’
hardware,” Reller said. “The hardware investment customers make today will be
able to take advantage of Windows 8 in the future…Customers can move forward
with their Windows 7 roll outs more confidently…The best way to get to the
future is to embrace the present.”

The lower system requirements for Windows 8 is just the
beginning of the sea change the OS represents for Microsoft. 

 “Windows 8 is a true
reimagining of Windows from the chip to the interface,” she said. “It’s
designed from the ground up to be excellent for touch-only tablets, but it also
works just as well with a mouse and a keyboard.”

The new OS will feature tiles instead of icons, intended to
provide more information about each app. Windows 8 will run both the existing
Windows applications as well as a new lineup of apps.  

Windows 8 will allow users to access files and documents
both through the file system familiar to Windows users and from the apps
themselves. “There’s no need for copying, pasting or trying to save things.
Apps will talk to each other. As you have more apps, the system keeps getting
more powerful.

“Windows 8 is an upgrade for a new ecosystem of PCs and for
the devices of tomorrow,” she said. “Our hardware partners have a great
opportunity to create the next generation of devices that will meet the needs
of the consumer and enterprise.”

Reller promised more details about Windows 8 would be released at the Build conference in Anaheim in mid-September

As for Windows present and past, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
noted that Microsoft Windows 7 has sold more licenses than any other Microsoft
OS – more than 400 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold in less than 2
years. He thanked partners for that success.

Reller told partners that the time to move to Windows 7 is
now and recounted productivity increases of customers who had moved away from
outdated hardware and software. She also reminded partners of the coming
Windows XP end-of-life which is just 1,000 days away.

Other news from the keynote included the following:

  • An acknowledgment from CEO Ballmer that Microsoft Windows
    Phone 7 penetration was still very small. However, he pointed to Gartner and
    IDC forecasts that say Windows Phone will be number 2 in the market by 2015.
  • Announcement of plans to integrate Bing with Xbox, enabling
    voice commanded search of all content from live TV to services such as Hulu.
  • Announcement of the beta of the next release of Windows
    Intune for cloud-based PC management and security, offering remote monitoring
    and management and software distribution. A limited public beta is available at
  • Announcement of momentum around Microsoft’s Office 365, the
    cloud version of its Office productivity suite. In less than two weeks since
    its launch more than 50,000 organizations are testing the service.