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Backwards compatibility with Windows 7 2-finger touch is also a key focus of Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world's largest operating system maker, after hearing years of comments on how we are living in a "post-PC" era in which users are using their smartphones and tablets more than their PCs (supposedly) made one of the most ambitious moves in its history with its upcoming Windows 8 operating system.  Microsoft decided to use touch to drive its interface.

I. Windows 8 Touch -- Not the Mayan Apocalypse (Though People Think it is)

Touch is a very threatening prospect to many users as they fear that Microsoft will under-deliver experience-wise for traditional mouse-and-keyboard systems.  In a recent official Windows Team blog on touch progress, many of the comments were complaints griping about lacking experience for traditional non-touch input hardware.

Writes "pffft", "how about a more mouse friendly ui and you change the name from WINDOWS to WINDOW because you can only view one at a time.....that works really great."

Windows President Steven Sinofsky thus far has dodged these questions.  While he noticeably answered some other minor questions in the comments section, he refused to address the criticism surrounding non-touch hardware experience, thus far.  But you can be he's listening.

This is the huge elephant in the room and it's hard to even begin a discussion on Windows 8 touch without first putting it out there and putting things in perspective.

There are a few things, however, that everyone should keep in mind:
  1. The beta (Consumer Preview) is meant to test emerging features.

    Microsoft already has tried and true traditional input in Windows 7.  While Windows 8 will likely be a bit faster for such systems and pack some nice improvements to the system utilities, the key new I/O feature is touch.  So it makes sense that the Consumer Preview would fixate on touch.
  2. Multi-touch + keyboard + mouse is the future of I/O.

    The reaction to touch is similar to the reaction to the mouse in the 1980s, when most consumers most experienced them.  Many users thought that you should only need a keyboard to control your system and were angered at OSs that were built around the mouse.  The reaction to multi-touch is no different.  While arguably the addition of touch to the already rich mouse/keyboard I/O atmosphere offers the best experience yet, users will be upset at Microsoft for "wasting" time on innovation.  Someday when the next great I/O transitition comes along, these customers will likely be among the same to complain about "why can't we just make Windows work on good old-fashioned multi-touch devices".  You can't stop progress.
  3. Oh great, my Windows 8 screen will be covered in fingerprints....

    Well, perhaps not -- displaymakers are increasingly moving towards oleophobic (oil resistant) displays, such as the display found in Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) recent iPhone model.  While this won't prevent oil deposition, it makes smudge-free cleaning as simple as a swipe of a dry cloth (as the oil doesn't adhere to the surface).

II. Windows 8 Focuses on 2-Finger Touch

Touch debate aside, Microsoft's latest blog is all about touch. It outlines a fundamental gesture set, which is based on 2-finger gestures:
Windows gestures

At first this may seem like a step back from Apple's iOS, which incorporates up to five fingers in its core UI gestures.  But keep in mind that the majority of Apple's gestures use two-finger touch.  

Those that do not (four/five finger swipe to switch apps, four/five finger pinch to go to home screen, four/five finger swipe up to open multi-tasking menu) largely are predicated on the lack of a taskbar.  In Windows your taskbar (the classic multi-tasking menu) is always there; you're always on the homescreen.  Thus switching apps is never more than two simple clicks away, which is arguably more intuitive that a complex multi-finger gesture, followed by a click.  

Furthermore, Windows is designed for real work, thus the idea of using a multi-finger swipe up (essentially the equivalent of ALT+TAB) or a multi-finger swipe sideways (essentially the equivalent of WINDOWS+TAB) to switch between apps would be useless given the large number of apps currently open and the high degree of jumping between apps non-chronologically.  It makes sense in a tablet world, though, so Microsoft might consider adopting it in the long run for that niche.

III. Windows 8 Working on Windows 7 Touch hardware

The 2-finger requirement also allows Microsoft's Windows 8 to work well on older Windows 7 touch hardware such as:
  • HP Elitebook 2760p convertible (Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ))
  • ASUS EP121 tablet (ASUSTek Computer Inc. (TPE:2357)
  • Dell Inspiron Duo convertible (Dell, Inc. (DELL))
  • Lenovo x220t convertible (Lenovo Group, Ltd. (HKG:0992)
  • 3M M2256PW 22” display (3M Comp. (MMM))
  • Samsung Series 7 slate (Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930))

Microsoft provides an interesting pie-chart that gives some idea about the relative rates of adoption of different kinds of touch devices in Windows 7 with respect to each other:
Touch adoption

Interestingly, convertibles and all-in-ones dominate.  This just goes to show either how poorly pure Windows 7 tablets have done, and/or shows how much of a demand there is for convertible tablets.

In the blog Microsoft explains that older Windows 7 touch hardware lacks the extra detection needed to distinguish edge-swipe gestures, a critical part of the Metro UI.  In order to make them work it's added a 20 pixel "buffer" to the corners of the screen -- which will not be accessible to apps. On Windows 7 era tablets/laptops this could be a small but significant portion of the resolution, creating some unsightliness.

Otherwise, the key thing in using Windows 7 is to eliminate "jitter" -- gesture confusion arising from poor detection.  Using some clever algorithms Microsoft was able to make the gestures reliable -- with an average success rate of between 80 and 100 percent, based on its collected statistics.

IV. The Road Ahead

Bear in mind that while Microsoft is only using 2-finger touch in its core functionality, in order to provide Windows 7 backwards compatibility, apps can use up to five-finger touch -- a requirement for new Windows 8 touch machines.  Thus Windows 7 touch devices will be able to fully use Windows 8, but not necessarily all of its apps.

According to Windows 8's hardware requirements (see Digitizer entries), five-finger touch is a requirement for all Windows 8 machines.  Microsoft currently lists no exceptions to this requirement.

So reportedly any new Windows machine will now come equipped with touch for better or worse.  For more info on Microsoft's specific device requirements, see here.

It will also pack a host of other improvements.  Most importantly, it blows Windows 7 away in speed and performance tests.  

Other perks include a developer-friendly 20-80 Microsoft-developer split for high-grossing apps, less painful Windows Update processfaster bootsdecreased OS resource consumption, and improved file transfers, a streamlined upgrade process for the initial installation, and switching to a primarily online sales distribution model.

Users will have to adapt to the mouse, just they adapted going from horse reins to steering wheel or from mouse to mouse+keyboard.  Users may not like it, but Windows 8 is meant to touch. 

Sources: Microsoft [1], [2]

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Keyboard still reigns
By bobsmith1492 on 3/29/2012 12:17:16 PM , Rating: 3
For speed and accuracy of anything other than image editing, the keyboard still reigns over the mouse, despite the author's comments.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By xti on 3/29/2012 12:32:53 PM , Rating: 5
really? cuz hitting reply link to prove you wrong was a lot better with the mouse.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By Hakuryu on 3/29/2012 12:53:06 PM , Rating: 4
People are very obstinate about using the keyboard to do things they could do with the mouse, even though it is much faster. Copy and Paste is the best example of this - most people I train continue to use the mouse to hit Edit->Copy or Edit->Paste, when CTRL+C and CTRL+V are much faser and don't take your hands off the keyboard.

Or how about when you open your browser? Hit Tab to enter the address bar, type in Google, and hit CTRL+ENTER to automtically fill out "" - much faster then clicking on a favorite in the list, and you can type your search instantly.

As far as hitting reply, webpages generally have too many links to effectively tab through a page, and a mouse is better in that situation; but by no means does it make it better for everything you do on your PC.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By geddarkstorm on 3/29/2012 2:15:22 PM , Rating: 2
The reason people use the right click for copy and paste is easily explainable. You mouse over to your target and you click to select it/or bring it to focus so you can perform your actions and then... what, you move both your hands to the keyboard to do the short cut command, or simply use your other finger to right click? The total motion is much greater with the keyboard as you have to move your hand from the mouse to the board and back to the mouse, then it is with just right clicking, a little wrist flick, and left clicking.

From a total biological energetics picture, the mouse is more efficient than jumping to the keyboard and back; and it takes about the same amount of time, so the mind naturally optimizes for the most energy efficient method.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By Camikazi on 3/29/2012 4:18:46 PM , Rating: 4
Wait... you need 2 hands on the mouse and 2 hands on the keyboard to use them? Me I'm weird I use my mouse with one hand while my other hand is on the keyboard waiting to hit hotkeys.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By GuinnessKMF on 3/30/2012 10:06:15 AM , Rating: 2
Reigns supreme? Have you heard of "the right tool for the right job"? Input devices each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Keyboards certainly are the best for text and simple command entry, but they're not the end all be all.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By jimbojimbo on 3/29/2012 5:15:26 PM , Rating: 2
That was hilarious! You use two hands for your mouse and you need two hands to hit Ctrl and C which are two inches from each other!! Too funny.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By RufusM on 3/29/2012 5:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'm waiting for the 5 finger with gestures!

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By xti on 3/29/2012 3:15:09 PM , Rating: 2
agree 100%, i was pointing out that there are things outside of image editing that a mouse shines at, unlike the original comment stated. clicking a link on a website is an example. To be fair, touching the link, as experienced on our phones/tables, is probably even better.

it drives me nuts that people go to the edit menu to copy and paste. its like...stop wasting seconds off my life before I call you Camel Lights.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By jimbojimbo on 3/29/2012 5:17:36 PM , Rating: 2
What aggravates me the most is when people type in their information, move their right hand to the mouse, drag the pointer to OK and click. Just hit Enter!!

Don't drag your mouse to that X, hit Alt+F X or C!!

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By borismkv on 3/29/2012 1:23:44 PM , Rating: 2
*tab tab tab tab tab tab tab tab tab...Crap. I missed tab tab tab tab tab*

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By Tuor on 3/29/2012 1:59:25 PM , Rating: 3
Crap. I missed it... shift-tab. Done.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By geddarkstorm on 3/29/2012 2:17:04 PM , Rating: 2
He was talking about shift-tab. Ever had a mouse go out on you and had to do everything in 7 with the keyboard? Quite a cumbersome pain verses the efficiency of the mouse. And yes, one extra tab during the shift-tab, and you have to tab around all over again, instead of a simple single click with a mouse.

When it comes to OS desktop GUIs, which are built around the mouse, the mouse simply reigns.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By geddarkstorm on 3/29/2012 2:18:52 PM , Rating: 2
Oh wait oops, I was thinking of alt-tab! Yeah, shift-tab heads you the other way in case you missed. Doop dee doop.

RE: Keyboard still reigns
By GuinnessKMF on 3/30/2012 4:24:19 PM , Rating: 2
Shift-alt-tab . . .

By p05esto on 3/29/2012 11:40:14 AM , Rating: 4
Even just pretending to touch my screen a few times is annoying and tiring. There's ZERO chance I'll ever be sitting at my desk touching the screen which sits 20" away...NO CHANCE. Maybe if I had superhuman arms that I wanted to wail around, but I don't.... I have little programmer arms, lol.

RE: dumb
By xti on 3/29/2012 12:31:07 PM , Rating: 2
awesome, we are all gonna get logitech harmonny with the screen to control PCs on the wall from our bed.

see...its kind of a neat idea. now maybe we will get cost efficient 42" true monitors.

think [box]

RE: dumb
By ShaolinSoccer on 3/29/2012 1:31:07 PM , Rating: 2
There's ZERO chance I'll ever be sitting at my desk touching the screen which sits 20" away

Touch is for tablets and phones...

RE: dumb
By geddarkstorm on 3/29/2012 2:20:24 PM , Rating: 2
And Metro is glaringly designed for touch, desktop notwithstanding.

RE: dumb
By Rand on 3/29/2012 5:42:23 PM , Rating: 2
And Metro is designed for touch, and Metro is expected to be used on desktops as well.

Options != requirements
By dagamer34 on 3/29/2012 11:02:55 AM , Rating: 3
Just because a PC is touch-enabled does not been you'll be forced to use it. People keep jumping the gun.

RE: Options != requirements
By SeeManRun on 3/29/2012 11:28:16 AM , Rating: 2
Metro is the default interface, and using it with a mouse and keyboard is not very pleasant. So while you aren't forced to use touch, you are essentially forced to use an interface designed for touch that is not ideal for mouse and keyboard.

At least, that is what I have found in my testing. Hopefully they have a setting in the final version that you can go Windows 7 like if you really want to.

RE: Options != requirements
By tayb on 3/29/12, Rating: 0
RE: Options != requirements
By borismkv on 3/29/2012 1:04:42 PM , Rating: 2
Has MS stated this or are you just guessing? I'm seriously curious about this because it's a huge sticking point for me. Between the Developer Preview and the Consumer preview, they completely removed the start button in the Desktop, which caused the OS to be even less intuitive rather than more. There are some features that I enjoy, but much of the Beta's UI features and navigation seem like they are only intuitive if you have hardware buttons or gestures to work with.

RE: Options != requirements
By 91TTZ on 4/2/2012 9:45:25 AM , Rating: 2
Have you used Windows 8 beta yet? It's pretty painful. It's stuck somewhere in between Windows 7 and a phone/tablet OS. On the desktop (which is where it's going to be used mostly) it's almost unusable unless you disable all the new features and make it like Windows 7.

WinMe meets touchscreens
By talikarni on 3/29/2012 4:09:07 PM , Rating: 2
Just as WinME tried to bridge the gap (horribly) with what we know as the jump from half-decent 98 (DOS) to decent XP (NT), and Vista went horribly wrong trying to do the same from XP to Win7... Win8 will try to bridge the gap from desktop/laptop OS (Win7) with touchscreen tablet/smartphone accessibility. The problem is that a LARGE majority of desktop/laptop users do not have any form of touchscreen capability with their LCD/CRT monitors.

RE: WinMe meets touchscreens
By Rand on 3/29/2012 5:48:36 PM , Rating: 2
Even some of those that DO have a touch capable display aren't pleased.
I cannot use touch exclusively for everything I do, and Windows 8 is ceaselessly aggravating as soon as I start using the mouse.

If I could operate exclusively in Metro when I wished and exclusively in the desktop with one touch access to the other environment I would buy Windows 8 in a second. It would be a godsend.

But right now I have to sacrifice usability with a mouse in exchange for touch. Just as Win7 sacrifices usability with touch in exchange for a mouse.

Sacrifices that shouldn't need to be made.

RE: WinMe meets touchscreens
By ShaolinSoccer on 3/30/2012 7:23:13 AM , Rating: 3
If I could operate exclusively in Metro when I wished and exclusively in the desktop with one touch access to the other environment I would buy Windows 8 in a second.

You can... Just press the Windows key on your keyboard...

By Taurus229 on 3/29/2012 5:22:15 PM , Rating: 1
My Windows 7 taskbar gets me where I,m going in less steps than Windows 8. Windows 7 is much more intuitive than Windows 8, and I don't know about you, but I loaded Windows 8, started to use it, when I was ready to shut down, it was not obvious, just not user friendly. Windows 7 Forever! The last Operating System I will buy from Microsoft. BTW , Microsoft will be losing it's bread & butter, corporate won't be using this silly gimmick, they won't give up Windows 7.

By talikarni on 3/29/2012 5:29:08 PM , Rating: 2
This is why there is still such a large number of people holding on to XP, for simplistic reasons. What takes 2-3 clicks in XP can at times take twice as many in Vista/7.

By Ramtech on 3/30/2012 7:10:19 AM , Rating: 2
Can you post some example?

By 91TTZ on 4/2/2012 9:55:34 AM , Rating: 2
Lots of things which require administrator access. The newer OSes have the UAC that asks you to give the program administrator access.

Default touch implementation on desktops?
By DanNeely on 3/29/2012 7:28:18 PM , Rating: 2
Does MS say anything about how they expect madatory touch to be implemented on desktops? A quick search through the document didn't turn up anything but I'm not about to read ~300 pages exhaustively.

Laptops and tablets have obvious default options; but nothing seems to be a natural fit for desktop systems. Touch screen monitors suffer from gorilla arm syndrome. The lack of any (mainstream) imitating devices means people aren't rushing to replace their desktops mice with giant touchpads next to the keyboard the way Apple tried to push a year or two back. Having to lift your hand up (or bend your fingers sharply back while maintaining palm contact) to get enough room for expansive gestures on the front half of a mouse doesn't seem like it'd work well; and again the lack of anyone trying to copy Apple's touch enabled mouse speaks for itself.

By biker16us on 3/30/2012 11:21:26 AM , Rating: 2
Kinect would be a great companion for Win8 for desktops.

By Rike on 3/29/2012 3:42:28 PM , Rating: 2
Skip touch and get going with gesture and voice control already!

Tali'Zorah vas Normandy
By 2u3e on 3/30/2012 10:50:59 AM , Rating: 2
Keelah se'lai!
How are we quarians supposed to use this with 3 fingers?

I have news for microsoft.
By dark matter on 4/2/2012 3:26:06 PM , Rating: 2
You can keep your five finger touch as far as I am concerned. You'll be getting the two finger touch from me.

Windows 7 Forever!
By Tuor on 3/29/12, Rating: -1
RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By Tuor on 3/29/2012 11:27:50 AM , Rating: 2
The above should state: Hopefully, Win7 will continue to be supported for many years into the future.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By konman795 on 3/29/2012 11:45:30 AM , Rating: 2
You just need to wait until the next Windows version after 8. That's Microsoft's usual pattern of one good version of Windows then one bad (XP -> Vista -> 7 -> 8). But I'm speaking too soon as I haven't actually tried Windows 8 myself.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By Mitch101 on 3/29/2012 2:48:48 PM , Rating: 2
I use Windows 8 now and its slightly better than Windows 7 but navigation is open to debate. Once you get past how to navigate your fine. A touch screen makes more sense or what might make sense is a touch pad mouse or kinect.

Overall I think Microsoft should just give you the option of start menu or touch screen when installing and that will solve the problem for everyone griping. The average user wont make the registry changes to get start back.

What I haven't seen a reason for Windows 7 users to upgrade to Windows 8 in fact if they dont offer the option of start menu out of the box I can see people avoiding it.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By YashBudini on 3/29/2012 7:16:49 PM , Rating: 2
You just need to wait until the next Windows version after 8. That's Microsoft's usual pattern of one good version of Windows then one bad (XP -> Vista -> 7 -> 8).

I recall people saying the same thing about Star Trek movies.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By StraightCashHomey on 3/29/12, Rating: 0
RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By Tuor on 3/29/2012 12:35:42 PM , Rating: 3
Really. What an... interesting conclusion.

Let's see. I own (or owned):

Windows: 98, ME, XP, Vista, and 7. But now, because I refuse to embrace this new Metro UI which is clearly intended for tablets and not desktops, I am in love with Jobs?

I *loathe* Apple. I have ever since the days when I owned an Amiga and had to listen to Apple hypocrites snobbishly going on and on about how wonderful Apple was, and how it was better than everyone else, and how PC users were too stupid to understand... while all the while, Amigas boasted better specs in almost every category than what Apple had: these Apple fans were doing the very thing they were accusing PC users (as in users of IBM PC clones) of doing. Frigging Birkenstock yuppies. So, yes, I find your accusation particularly galling... and untrue.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By Mitch101 on 3/29/2012 2:35:42 PM , Rating: 1

1- Disable the Metro gui and use the Start option just like Windown 7.
2- Get a Kinect for your PC and use hand gestures.
3- Learn these keyboard shortcuts
ALT+TAB - Switch Between Apps
ALT+F4 - Close Application
Want to Load a Specific Application or Document - Just start typing the name and you will be provided a list and faceted search to narrow your results.
4- Buy a touch screen
5- Learn to accept your new evil overlords at Apple.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By Tuor on 3/29/2012 2:49:07 PM , Rating: 2
1. If I can *completely* disable Metro, then I will consider getting Win 8.

2. Not interested in Kinect... at all.

3. I know some of those shortcuts. But if I'm going to have to rely on them all the time, that would be... cumbersome.

4. Screw that.

5. To *hell* with that. :P

Additional Option:

6. Stick with Win 7 and hope that MS comes back to their senses with Win 9.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By andre-bch on 3/29/2012 5:17:04 PM , Rating: 4
Did you at least try the metro UI, or just looked at some pictures.
People are usually afraid of radical new things, but they get used to it over time, like they did with mouse + keyboard in the past.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By MrBlastman on 3/30/2012 10:42:10 AM , Rating: 2
I've been doing quite a bit of dos gaming in the past year (console ports to the PC suck not to mention the intense lack of gameplay in games these days--contradictory, no?) and forgot how wonderful the all-keyboard interfaces were, or how the ones that used both mouse/keyboard could be navigated so efficiently with just the keyboard.

Take Worlds of Xeen, for instance. It has a bunch of nice icons on it and menus you can click on but, really, you never need to click on anything, ever, period. The whole system can be driven with a keyboard (aside from selecting a particular foe--but I'm sure I just forgot the hotkey for that). Spells, inventory, quests, items, saving, restoring--everything, easily done via the keyboard. Of course, you could use the mouse but... why would you want to?

Ultima 6 is another example. It was one of those titles in an awkward time when mouse was beginning to be used on PC's but, it handled keyboard input so well that you never needed to touch a mouse if you didn't want to. Ultima 7 was a step back from 6 as far as usability and playability when 7 went to a pure mouse interface (with some keyboard shortcuts).

So what's my point? That game designers should be designing OS UI's? Maybe. More importantly, though, UI's trying to bridge a gap, as illustrated by these two titles, can do so quite efficiently for both styles--letting user preference rule rather than forcing them to feel pain trying to do one or the other. Ultima 7 forced the pain and thus was annoying to play versus 6 which was equal in both (though keyboard is much faster limited only by how quickly you can push buttons).

You shouldn't have to get "used" to a new UI--it should feel natural to you. If it doesn't--or doesn't let you be natural, then it is a failed system.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By Ammohunt on 3/29/2012 11:02:04 PM , Rating: 2
I will wait for Windows X

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By ShaolinSoccer on 3/29/2012 1:24:50 PM , Rating: 3
Nothing wrong with Windows 8. It's actually extremely easy to use with a mouse and keyboard. You just have to spend about 5 minutes learning the OS. My only gripe about Windows 8 is the apps don't support 720p. So that leaves out a lot of people who have 720p TV's and want to use Windows 8 on it.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By Mitch101 on 3/29/2012 2:39:51 PM , Rating: 2
Use the 1366x768 resolution.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By Tuor on 3/29/2012 2:51:57 PM , Rating: 1
Too bad my monitor is 1920x1200, and that resolution doesn't appear to be supported.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By Mitch101 on 3/29/2012 4:06:08 PM , Rating: 2
I think everyone is stuck on the Windows 8 supported tablet resolutions or most common resolutions list Microsoft released. So 1920x1200 is supported just like my 5760x1080 isn't listed but supported.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By jimbojimbo on 3/29/2012 5:12:44 PM , Rating: 2
His response was to the previous poster wanting 720p which is the correct answer. As for you when the proper video drivers come out maybe you'll get that option. You forget that the version out right now is a consumer preview NOT the full version with whatever it will support.

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By ShaolinSoccer on 3/30/2012 7:20:55 AM , Rating: 2
How can it be the "correct" answer when the TV says "that mode is not supported"...

Do you people just make this stuff up without actually trying it?

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By ShaolinSoccer on 3/30/2012 7:27:53 AM , Rating: 2
Use the 1366x768 resolution.

That does not work...

RE: Windows 7 Forever!
By YashBudini on 3/29/2012 7:23:11 PM , Rating: 2
You just have to spend about 5 minutes learning the OS.

But look at how long it takes to change a setting they decided you wouldn't touch.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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