Windows 8: Late, Lame and Still in Game

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Microsoft ( MSFT) finally charted a course for the mobile computing frontier with Windows 8.

Unfortunately, the company packed all its desktop baggage into the Windows 8 hybrid-style operating system that will run on both tablets and computers.

Microsoft introduced some features of its next software platform at the D9: All Things Digital confab Wednesday. The Windows 8 system combines the touchscreen-enabled, color-tiled look of Windows Phone 7, but it comes with the full version of Windows running in the background.

It's exactly what you'd expect from Microsoft as it tried to haul its clunky legacy forward. And ever so characteristic of Microsoft, the move is out of step with the industry, which has moved beyond the PC era.

Analysts offered some mild kudos for Microsoft's belated recognition of the touchscreen revolution and the growing tablet market. But overall, the expected arrival of Windows 8 late next year represents another game-changing opportunity Microsoft has squandered.

"This gives them a ticket to get back in the game, but it certainly isn't going to be enough to help them reestablish their dominance of the industry," said Rodman Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar.

Microsoft says it is working with chipmakers like Intel ( INTC), AMD ( AMD), Nvidia ( NVDA), Texas Instruments ( TXN) as well as developers of the ARM ( ARMH)-based processors. And the company says Windows 8 will not require new computers or system upgrades.

There had been some expectations that Windows 8 would be a departure from the standard operating system evolution that Microsoft updates every three years or so. The speculation was that Microsoft would take a cue from Apple ( AAPL) and design a separate, more nimble software specifically for touchscreen devices.

Microsoft is expected to release more details of Windows 8 at its developers' conference in September, but investors may have seen enough already. Microsoft shares were largely unchanged early Thursday and are down 12% for the year.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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