Can Steve Ballmer and Microsoft close the gap on Apple with Windows 8?

Windows was once the operating system of choice for both consumers and developers but since Apple’s meteoric rise to prominence and popularity, Microsoft has had to work a little bit harder to compete.

This year sees the release of Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 8 – and with it comes a host of new features as well as numerous new jobs for IT developers familiar with the new system. Windows 7 was popular but this new incarnation of Microsoft’s popular OS is looking like it could be the addition to break Apple’s hold over the market.

Microsoft released an early version of Windows 8 recently, and you can download the Developer Preview now if you’re looking at new IT jobs that will inevitably require you to be clued up on all the new features. Here is a summary of all the new elements that could well make Windows 8 the operating system for 2012.

Windows To Go

If you ever wished that you could take your Windows OS wherever you go, then this new feature is for you. ‘Windows To Go’ means you can boot up Windows 8 from a USB stick on the go and access all your files, programs and settings.

This is perfect for people needing to access their home computer at work or vice versa and it even has a great little feature which will freeze windows if the USB comes out. Providing you insert it again within 60 seconds, the OS will continue working as if nothing happened!

The Windows Store

It’s taken longer than it should have, but Microsoft has finally had to bite the bullet and model an online shop on Apple’s extremely popular version. The Windows Store will mirror the Mac’s App Store, offering applications specifically for Windows and those that work over numerous platforms, too.

User Interface

Probably the most impressive feature of Windows 8, the new user interface is set to give Apple a serious run for its money when the new OS is released. It defines everything that Apple does well and Microsoft needs to do more of, with stylish design and extremely easy to use navigation. It couples together your most important programs, files and applications and can be controlled by your mouse, keyboard and most excitingly, touch commands.

Windows Defender

If there’s one criticism leveled at Windows operating systems, it’s that they are prone to attack and security breaches. Microsoft is trying to address this with Windows 8 by improving on its anti-malware software, Windows Defender, that was first introduced with its Vista OS. This should improve their protection against all types of threats and add to what was already a much-improved online security solution.

Release date

Nothing’s ever certain when it comes to release dates but we can probably expect Windows 8 by the middle of 2012. The OS is still being developed so there is no way of knowing an exact date, but Windows are sure to release it before the year is out. The question is, how will it match up to Apple and will this be the year Windows reclaims its crown as the OS of choice?