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Windows 8 – what you need to know

One of the big draws at this year’s Mobile World Congress is Microsoft’s press conference, where it is showcasing its latest operating system Windows 8.

The new OS is the tech giant’s next big thing, as it hopes to move firmly into the mobile market while still retaining its home PC presence.

The public is going to be able to try out a free trial of Windows 8 from today, which Microsoft hope will help people wake up to Windows as a mobile platform.

It is an exciting time for Microsoft, with the OS seen by some as make-or-break for the company. But what do you need to know about Windows 8?

Windows 8 for tablets and PCs

Microsoft still enjoys dominance in the PC market, but clearly wants to claw back some ground in the mobile world by adapting its famous OS.

There will be two versions of the new OS – one for laptops and desktop computers, and one for mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.

The two versions will of course be very similar, and are modelled on the Windows Phone OS for smartphones. That means a Metro-style interface with live tiles, which update in real time.

Microsoft office on Windows 8

Microsoft’s challenge to Apple in the mobile market is not going to be easy, but it does have a trump card in the form of Office.

The software giant intends to offer Word, Powerpoint and Excel for free on Windows 8 tablets – an exciting prospect and one that could put Windows tablets ahead of Apple.

Release date for Windows 8

We’ll get a free trial of the OS (on PCs and laptops only) from today, but the full release is still a little way away.

There has been no confirmation of a release date, but Microsoft doesn’t like to leave it more than three years between operating systems. So we should be seeing Windows 8 sometime in the autumn.