Thumbnail image for win8pro_box.png       The computing world won't change overnight with the launch of Windows 8, but in a few years time, the digital environment could be influenced heavily by what Microsoft shows today in New York. 

The Big Day is Here

It is kind of odd watching a Microsoft software launch, we've seen the operating system in action since the first builds, developer betas, public trials and all the way up to RTM. So, there isn't a huge amount for Microsoft to amaze us with, and hot on the heels of Apple's launch and Google's leaks, we're starting to feel all gadgeted-out. 

But, combined with all the new hardware that's coming, Microsoft can still pull off a few tricks. And it has to both amaze, inform and delight with the launch, as hundreds of millions of perfectly happy Windows 7, Vista and XP owners remain to be convinced.

You can watch the webcast here, and we'll update with product and feature news as it happens. With Microsoft having taken over a chunk of Times Square for the whole day, it could be quite a long running series of events. 

Windows RT, Front and Center

Steve Sinofsky was first on stage, beating the Windows 8 and RT drum. Some 13 million installations happened before release in the widest program ever, that means everything should be great out of the box for Windows 8. 

Windows 8's improvements start at the very beginning, with improved 10-second boot times from cold.. Then there's the improved battery life and the 1,000 plus devices certified for the OS. But they are nothing without apps and programs. He said that they are getting 100 apps per day on to the new Marketplace, Amazon has just announced Kindle for Windows 8, while Box has just announced its app.

While your old apps will run happily on Windows 8., the new market place is more critical for Windows RT devices. At least Sinofsky was up front with that admission, while name-checking all the big brands behind the new tablets, including Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung.

Time for a Demo

Microsoft staff then showed off the power of Windows 8 at work (and play). The new Live Tiles will be familiar to Windows Phone users, but in Windows 8, they can help make a lot more sense of your daily activities. 

Fun was demonstrated in the form of the Xbox services, no longer the preserve of the games console. Music and media can play across all your devices and the new SmartGlass apps, when they arrive, will bring second-screen features. 

They also showed off the new Mail app, Maps and Skydrive. Then we had an appearance from Steve Ballmer covering how all these tiles and services will wrap into your Windows Phone 8 devices. Perhaps the most significant figure he mentioned though is the estimated 400 million new PCs that will ship with Windows 8 in the coming year and around 700 million upgrades. 

That's one heck of an ecosystem in anyone's books. There's a Surface demo coming up on the live stream soon, and we'll try and get some perspective on the launch from around the world.  The OS itself goes onsale from midnight (your local time) tonight.