Released in October 2012, Windows 8 was Microsoft’s most radical overhaul of the Windows interface, ditching the Start button and Start menu in favour of a more touch-friendly Start screen.
The new tiled interface saw programme icons and live tiles, which displayed at-a-glance information normally associated with “widgets”, replace the lists of programmes and icons. A desktop was still included, which resembled Windows 7.
Windows 8 was faster than previous versions of Windows and included support for the new, much faster USB 3.0 devices. The Windows Store, which offers universal Windows apps that run in a full-screen mode only, was introduced. Programs could still be installed from third-parties like other iterations of Windows, but they could only access the traditional desktop interface of Windows.
The radical overhaul was not welcomed by many. Microsoft attempted to tread a fine line between touchscreen support and desktop users, but ultimately desktop users wanting to control Windows with a traditional mouse and keyboard and not a touchscreen felt Windows 8 was a step back. There were also too few touchscreens in use, or on offer, to make its touch-oriented interface useful or even necessary - despite the parallel rise of tablets such as the iPad, and smartphones, which had begun outselling PCs by the end of 2010.
Windows RT, which runs on ARM-based processors traditionally found in smartphones and non-PC tablets, was introduced at the same time as Windows 8 with the Microsoft Surface tablet. It looked and felt like Windows 8, but could not run traditional Windows applications, instead solely relying on the Windows Store for third-party apps.