NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Microsoft on Thursday officially launched Windows 8, a major overhaul of its flagship operating system, as part of the software giant's attempts to stay competitive in an increasingly mobile computing landscape.
In addition to desktop and laptop personal computer (PC), Windows 8 also runs on tablet computer, a new computing device category created by Apple's iPad.
The Windows 8 has a redesigned Start screen replacing the icons with square tiles for various applications, which are optimized for touch control by fingers, a radical change to the familiar look and feel of the previous versions of Windows.
The new interface also allows users to switch to the traditional desktop mode and control using keyboard and mouse.
"With Windows 8, we've brought together the best of both worlds, the PC and the tablet," Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer, said at the launch event held in New York City.
The latest operating system will be available worldwide beginning Friday, Microsoft said.
As a dominant force in the PC era, Microsoft is pinning hopes on the revamped Windows 8 to boost the slumping PC market and gain new ground in a post-PC world which is being shaped by competitors such as Apple and Google.
Global PC market is expected to contract by 1.2 percent to 348. 7 million units in 2012, the first decline in 11 years, research firm IHS iSuppli predicted earlier in October.
The Windows 8 will help stimulate the PC market by meeting customers' changing needs and scaling across all of their devices, said Tami Reller, vice president and chief financial officer at Windows and Windows Live at Microsoft.
"So I think it gives people a lot of choices, and I think choice will stimulate demand," Reller told Xinhua in an interview ahead of the Windows 8 launch event.
According to Microsoft, more than 1,000 certified PCs and tablets will be available for the launch of Windows 8.
"We started working with our partners in the initial planning phases of Windows 8. So before Windows 7 was even shipped, we were engaged with our partners. So far, we've certified a thousand unique systems," said Reller.
Windows 8 is a big gamble Microsoft must take to stay relevant in a world where mobile devices with new modern experiences such as the touch interface are becoming the norm, analysts at research firm Gartner has said.
Apple's iPad, iPhone and mobile devices running Google's Android operating system have made the PC just one of several devices people use.
Latest numbers from Apple showed that the company sold over 100 million iPads since the tablet debuted in early 2010.
The popularity of mobile devices both at work and at home has had a significant impact on Microsoft's Windows sales, according to a report released earlier this week by research firm Forrester.
Microsoft has long dominated PC-only market with over 95 percent sales, but its share of all personal devices, including PC, tablets and smartphones, has shrunk drastically to about 30 percent in 2012.
Windows 8 will simply stop the shrinking trend and maintaining Microsoft's share at about 30 percent of personal devices sales through 2016, but won't be a fix for its lost market share, Frank Gillett, a Forrester analyst and author of the new report, said recently in a blog post.
Gillett projected that Windows 8 would endure a slow start as traditional PC users delay upgrades, while those eager for Windows tablets jump in.
After a slow start in 2013, the new operating system is expected to take hold in 2014, keeping Microsoft relevant and the master of the PC market, but simply a contender in tablets, and a distant third in smartphones.
Microsoft's Reller said that it would take time to see the full potential of Windows 8. "You know there will be initial wave of adoption, and we think there will be subsequent waves of adoptions, " she said.
"So it's not all about the first days, the first weeks or even the first months are about. We really think it's been an innovation that our partners are going to bring to market over the month, the quarters and selling seasons to come," added Reller.