IT giant Microsoft Corp. Wednesday launched the test version of a new generation of its Windows operating system designed to run seamlessly on computers and portable tablet devices.
"Windows 8 is a generational change in the Windows operating system," said Windows president Steven Sinofsky.
"It's Windows reimagined," he added, at the world's biggest mobile fair in Barcelona.
The operating system is Microsoft's answer to Google's Android platform and Apple Inc., which has dominated the tablet market it ignited with the release of the iPad.
Like its two competitors, Microsoft is adopting the "app" style in its reinvented operating system.
Unlike previous generations of Windows, which has a taskbar pulling up a list of software, the latest version has a selection of applications or "apps" tiled on the start page.
Apps are selected or moved around in the same way as on a smartphone -- by hand, swiping to switch between pages, pinching to enlarge or shrink and tapping to select.
"Apps bring to life the operating system. The more apps you have, the better your experience," said Sinofsky.
For those who have several devices, they will be connected through a "cloud", a resource that pools a user's data online rather than on a user's computer disc.
"This connection through cloud is very important in how we thought of Windows 8 in the beginning," said Sinofsky.
It enabled what is seen on the screen of a tablet device to be replicated on a regular computer if the user signs in with a Windows ID.
Microsoft also announced on Wednesday the test opening of its Windows Store, where users can buy apps online.
Although it is a heavyweight in the computer market, Microsoft has lagged behind in getting a share of the smartphone and tablet market.
Windows has teamed up with Finnish giant Nokia to make smartphones to try to win back a share.
On Monday, Nokia announced that Windows phones have now been made compatible with Chinese mobile operating networks, allowing it to bring its smartphones to that massive market.
It could also challenge the dominance of Blackberry in the corporate market, as companies may opt to go with Windows as their computers are already running on that operating system.
During the preview period, apps on the Windows Store will be available to users to test for free.
Copyright 2012 Agence France-Presse