Oct 23 (Reuters) - Windows 8 is the latest version of Microsoft Corp's 30-year old flagship product, and is due to be released to the public on Oct. 26. Here are its main features and implications for users and Microsoft's business partners:
-- With a startling new design based on colorful 'tiles' representing applications or people, the system is optimized for touch commands on tablets -- familiar to users of Apple Inc's iPad and Google Inc's Android devices -- but will also work on traditional laptops and PCs. There is an option to revert to the old-style desktop for non-tablet users.
-- The old 'Start' button has been jettisoned, a move which has confused some early test users.
-- Microsoft is betting that thin and light tablets from PC makers such as Samsung and Asus will challenge the dominance of the iPad and Amazon.com's Kindle Fire in the fast-growing tablet market, and reverse the decline of PC sales, which are expected to fall this year for the first time since 2001.
-- In a radical departure, Microsoft is introducing its own-branded computer, a tablet called the Surface, that will tackle the iPad head on. Priced from $499, it will be available only from Microsoft's own stores and website. The move risks alienating Microsoft's long-time hardware partners such as Dell Inc, Toshiba Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co .
-- Industry experts do not expect that businesses and other big organizations will rush to adopt Windows 8 immediately, except perhaps to incorporate new tablets for mobile workers. If Windows 8 is not eventually a hit with enterprises, it will threaten the company's most stable customer base.
-- Microsoft has created two main versions of Windows 8, marking a move away from its long-time chip partner Intel Corp, and potentially causing confusion among retail customers.
-- The standard version will run on x86 Intel chips and is compatible with old Microsoft programs like Excel, Word and PowerPoint.
-- A stripped-down version called Windows RT will be installed on devices powered by the ARM Holdings -designed chips that dominate the phone and tablet market. Windows RT will feature new, touch-optimized versions of Microsoft's programs, but is not compatible with the old x86 versions. Tablets running either version will look similar, so may be easily confused, potentially upsetting some buyers.
-- About 90 percent of the world's personal computers still run on some version of Windows. But Microsoft is less reliant on Windows than it was, as Office continues to grow and it branches out into server software and internet services.
-- Windows accounted for about 25 percent of Microsoft's $74 billion annual revenue last year, down from 30 percent of revenue five years ago.
(Reporting By Bill Rigby; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)