Microsoft To Show Off Windows 8 Beta Next Week

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As Microsoft readies Windows 8 for developers, rumours spread about a partnership with Samsung

Momentum is building around Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, optimised for tablets, with the company preparing to unveil the platform at its BUILD developer conference in Anaheim, California, next week.

Details of the new operating system have been trickling out slowly on Microsoft’s Building Windows 8 blog, with the most recent post from Windows and Windows Live division president Steven Sinofsky indicating that Windows 8 will include support for virtualisation.

Sinofsky also recently defended the company’s decision to opt for a ribbon interface, which offers tabs and icons in a horizontal or vertical panel, claiming that it would help to create “an optimised file manager where commands would have reliable, logical locations in a streamlined experience”.

The most significant difference between Windows 8 and previous Windows operating systems, however, is that it is touch-enabled and tablet-friendly, indicating a belated move by the company into the burgeoning tablet market.

“It’s a big deal,” said Todd Lowenstein, portfolio manager at HighMark Capital Management, speaking to Reuters. “Investors are hungry to see how they are going to join where the market’s going. They’ve been lagging and they need to catch up and surpass what’s going on, to demonstrate they truly are an innovative company.”

Samsung to launch first Windows 8 tablets

Rumours are now also spreading that Microsoft has partnered with Korean electronics maker Samsung, to build the first tablet based on Windows 8. According to the Korea Economic Daily the Windows 8 tablet will also be revealed at Microsoft’s BUILD conference. Earlier rumours suggest that attendees will be offered a prototype of the device.

A move away from Android could be a wise move for Samsung, given the long-running legal battle with Apple over Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. Earlier this month, Samsung was forced to withdraw its new Galaxy tablet from one of the world’s largest electronics shows – IFA 2011 – after Apple won an injunction against the device.

Despite the current flurry of Microsoft rumours, however, the final build of Windows 8 is not expected to arrive until late 2012. The late release puts Microsoft at a significant disadvantage to its competitors Apple and Google, which have been establishing their dominance in the market over the past 18 months.

“If 2011 is the year of the tablet wars, Microsoft will be awfully late suiting up for that battle,” said Michael Gartenberg, a New Jersey-based analyst for research firm Gartner, back in March. “It’s not a good position to be in.”

Meanwhile, some industry commentators are speculating that Microsoft’s BUILD conference could be overshadowed by Apple’s iPhone 5 launch, expected as soon as October. Screenshots posted by International Business Times of a purported “iPhone 4S prototype” have also prompted speculation about a “lower cost lineup of iPhones Apple will introduce alongside the iPhone 5 release”.

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