Windows 8 is the newest version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, created by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablets, and home theater PCs. Development of Windows 8 started before the release of its predecessor, Windows 7, in 2009. Its existence was first announced at CES 2011, and followed by the release of three pre-release versions from September 2011 to May 2012. The operating system was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012, and was released for general availability on October 26, 2012.
Windows 8 introduces significant changes to the operating system’s platform, primarily focused towards improving its user experience on mobile devices such as tablets to better compete with other mobile operating systems like Android and Apple’s iOS. Windows 8 introduces a new touch-friendly shell and user interface based on Microsoft’s “Metro” design language, featuring a new Start screen with a grid of dynamically updating tiles that represent applications. The Start screen replaces the “Start menu” of earlier Windows versions. There is a new app platform with an emphasis on touchscreen input, and the new Windows Store to obtain and/or purchase applications to run on the operating system.
In addition, Windows 8 takes advantage of new or emerging technologies like USB 3.0, 4Kn Advanced Format, near field communications, cloud computing, and the low-power ARM architecture. It includes new security features such as built-in antivirus capabilities, a new installation process optimized for digital distribution, and support for secure boot (a UEFI feature which allows operating systems to be digitally signed to prevent malware from altering the boot process). Synchronization of certain apps and settings between multiple devices is supported. Windows 8 was released to mixed reception. Although reaction towards its performance improvements, security enhancements, and improved support for touchscreen devices was positive, the new user interface of the operating system has been widely criticized for being confusing and having a steep learning curve (especially when used with a keyboard and mouse instead of a touchscreen). Despite these shortcomings, 60 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold through January 2013. This includes upgrades and sales to OEMs for new PCs.