x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

'Start' button faces end in Mideast as Microsoft boots up Windows 8

The US software giant plays up Arabic functions of its new operating system as it launches in the Middle East weeks after it was officially unveiled in other markets.

The American software giant Microsoft played up the Arabic functions of its Windows 8 software, as it officially unveiled the new operating system in the Middle East more than three weeks after its launch in other markets.

Windows 8 is intended to help Microsoft to gain ground in smartphones and tablets, where products running on the Apple and Android operating systems lead the way, while maintaining its monopoly in the PC market.

"It is pretty significant because it is a different way of interacting with devices with different choices of devices and different opportunities for software developers and an open [applications] store," said Ali Faramawy, a corporate vice-president at Microsoft Corporation and president of Microsoft Middle East & Africa.

"The Middle East is a very big market with 350 million Arabic speakers, we have 1,200 new [app] developers signing up every day in the region. Many of the Middle East countries are trying to modernise education through technology and using IT to improve the performance of governments and the connection between them and citizens. Windows 8 can be used for these things."

Antoine Leblond, a corporate vice-president of Windows web services at Microsoft, said Windows 8 has big potential in the Middle East, where Arabic-language applications will be key.

"There are a lot of great apps [including] Arabic language and locally focused apps … The opportunity [in the Arab world] is a fantastic one," said Mr Leblond.

"I have worked on Windows and Office and I've been through some interesting challenges in creating software for Arabic scripts. We have spent an incredible amount of energy for the best software for the market and local languages."

Windows 8 features a complete redesign of the traditional user interface and has rendered the "Start" button obsolete.

"There is nothing about the Start button that anyone will miss. This is the reality of change," said Mr Leblond.

The operating system is designed with a touch-interface in mind, and Microsoft has partnered with the likes of Nokia and HTC to launch a range of mobile phones globally while its Surface tablet has been doing well on the UAE grey market.

Described as the most tested version of Windows yet, Windows 8 has already been installed 16 million times globally and has endured 1.25 billion hours of testing.

With more than 1 billion Windows users across the world, Microsoft believes it is in a good position to attract app developers.

"The standard terms in app stores give 70 per cent [of revenues] back to developers. We give 70 per cent but any app that makes more than US$25,000 (Dh91,830), then that revenue share switches to 80 per cent back to the developer.

"That is substantial, we are offering the biggest opportunity to developers in terms of number of users and by far the largest financial opportunity," said Mr Leblond.

thamid@thenational.ae