Microsoft introduces Windows 8

Microsoft gave the world a glimpse of Windows 8, a tablet-friendly overhaul to its operating system.

Windows 8 is on its way, and it'll be a departure from the Windows we know and love today. That was the message Microsoft sent Wednesday afternoon at the annual D: All Things Digital Conference, taking place near Los Angeles.

At the conference, Microsoft presented a radically redesigned Windows interface: Instead of the traditional desktop with windows, the taskbar, Start menu, and so on, Microsoft demonstrated an interface that looks reminiscent to Windows Phone 7, its smartphone operating system -- complete with tough-friendly live tiles.

Microsoft also posted a video that shows some of the new features. Most notably, the company says that it's designed for not only laptops and desktops, but for tablets as well (which makes sense, given its big, touch-friendly buttons and visual style). The new tile-based interface replaces the traditional Start menu, according to Microsoft.

Macworld's Jason Snell notes on Twitter that "Windows 8 will run standard Windows apps, support standard Windows peripherals." Microsoft's video shows regular Windows apps running in a separate, traditional desktop mode that you can switch to with the press of a button.

Apps made specifically for Windows 8 will be a bit of a different beast -- they'll "use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML," the company says. It remains to be seen if this means that Windows 8-specific apps will be based solely on HTML5, JavaScript, and other Web technologies, or if they'll be some tie-ins to more traditional app development tools that Microsoft offers.

What's interesting about Windows 8 is that it's another step in PCs becoming more tablet-like. Apple is moving toward making Mac OS X more iPad-like with Lion's various iOS-inspired features, although Windows 8 seems to go one step further with merging the tablet and the PC. There will probably be some resistance to these changes, and we'll have to wait and see how it all works out in practice, but the writing's on the wall.

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Nick Mediati

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