Windows 8 will run on all current PC hardware

Microsoft exec Tami Reller told attendees at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference 2011 taking place in Los Angeles yesterday that any PC capable of running Windows 7 today would be capable of running Windows 8 when it is released, towards the end of the year if Steve Ballmer's ramblings are to be believed.

After giving the assembled crowd a glowing appraisal of the current Windows operating system's achievements (400 million copies out there, sold three times faster than XP, 27 per cent of the Internet uses W7...) Reller moved on to the future and Windows 8.

Although she didn't couch the promise quite so succinctly, we reckon the Microsoftie made a bold statement which amounts to, any PC which is currently capable of running Windows 7 will also be able to run Windows 8.

Starting with software, Reller said, "Windows 8 also runs the existing Windows apps that you use and love. They are just as easy to switch to, and you can use them alongside your new Windows 8 apps."

Digging deeper into the operating system, Reller remarked, "Because it is a PC, it has a file system. The file system has your documents and photos, your videos and music. You can get to your photos from your existing Windows programs, as well as your new Windows 8 apps. And Windows apps can share information with one another, adding new capabilities to other apps. For example, your pictures will be available on your existing file system, as well as a photo service. No copying, no pasting or trying to save things. Just select the pictures, or unselect them. The apps will just talk with each other. And so, as you have more apps, the system just keeps getting more powerful."

She then moved on to her next subject, the upgrade path between Windows 7 and 8, which raised a few eyebrows.

"Windows 8 [is] an upgrade for an entire ecosystem of PCs. It's for the hundreds of millions of modern PCs that exist today and for the devices of tomorrow," she promised.

So that's a firm commitment from Microsoft that millions of current PC owners won't have to upgrade their hardware to cope with the next-gen OS. We'll believe it when we see it, but Reller continued to bang the backwards compatibility drum:

"The breadth of hardware choice is unique to Windows and is central to how we see Windows evolving. In both of our Windows 8 previews, we talked about continuing on with the important trend that we started with Windows 7, keeping system requirements either flat or reducing them over time," she said.

"Windows 8 will be able to run on a wide range of machines because it will have the same requirements or lower. And, we've also built intelligence into Windows 8 so that it can adapt to the user experience based on the hardware of the user. So, whether you're upgrading an existing PC, or buying a new one, Windows will adapt to make the most of that hardware."

Reller reckons enterprise users, many of whom have been wary of Microsoft OS upgrades since the whole Vista debacle kicked them in their corporate teeth, will be happy with the smoothness of the transition.

"For our business customers... this is an important element because the ability of Windows 8 to run on Windows 7 devices ensures that the hardware investments that these customers are making today will be able to take advantage of Windows 8 in the future.

"We see a future with a heterogeneous environment of Windows 8 devices and apps running alongside Windows 7 PCs and applications. So, customers can move forward with their Windows 7 rollouts more confidently and with more motivation than ever. And not only will Windows 7 hardware be compatible with Windows 8, so will software investment."