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Everything You Need to Know About Windows 8

On October 26th Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8 will become official. Windows 8 has been available as a free download called Consumer Preview for a while and has been received with some skepticism due partly to a radical new user interface. In case you’re interested in upgrading or you just want to know what Windows 8 could mean for you, here's our rundown of what you need to know.

What’s Different About Windows 8? The first thing most people notice about the new Windows 8 desktop is that the folders, files and icons have been replaced with tiles. This new Metro user interface represents a shift from a clickable world to one more closely aligned to what consumers have become used to doing on devices with touchscreens like smartphones and tablets. This seems like a natural evolution of the Windows desktop that might be better suited to a touchscreen device than a mouse and keyboard. We expect to see the popularity of touchscreen computers like the new hybrid laptops and all-in-one (AIO) PCs grow as users migrate to Windows 8. Microsoft has also made the current Windows 7 desktop available for users who prefer to use the more traditional look and feel.

The Appification of the Desktop
As the use of apps continues to grow in mobile devices, helping usher in the “post-pc” era, users may prefer to use apps on their desktops or laptops running Windows. Apple, coincidentally is moving in a similar direction with the latest Mac OS, Mountain Lion adopting features of their mobile OS. In Windows 8 you’ll be able to use apps to check the weather, stock prices, etc. In fact, the tiles on the desktop will be able to display live data or images, creating a mosaic of dynamic data on your screen. The Microsoft App store is where you’ll go to get lots of popular apps although we don’t think it will match the number of iOS or Android apps for quite a while. The fact that the Windows Phone 8 OS named “Apollo” shares the same “core” with Windows 8 should make it easier for developers to create apps for Phone 8 and Windows 8.

Socialization of Windows
Windows 8 makes it easier to share things with people in your social networks. Windows 8 universal Share menu allows you to share photos, text and other items with your friends or anyone else you want to share something with. Windows 8 uses a Share “contract” and a Share “charm” to add the icon of an app like Twitter or LInkedin to your Share menu.

Windows Moves Into the Cloud
The future of Windows is cloudy and we don’t mean that in a bad sense. What we mean is that as the computing world moves into the Cloud, Windows is right there. SkyDrive is tightly integrated into Windows 8 making it easier to save items in your own, free, 7GB SkyDrive (more if you’ve had an account for a while) where you’ll be able to access them from different devices. SkyDrive will also be used to keep your docs in synch and by synching your Windows 8 computer with Windows Live, you’ll be able to use any other Windows machine as if it was your own.

What’s the Difference Between Windows RT and Windows 8?
 Windows operating systems have always been tied to the “x86” chip set which means Windows only ran (natively) on Intel and AMD processors. ARM processors have become hugely popular in mobile devices because they offer lots of processing power without using a lot of electrical power. With Windows RT, Microsoft has created a version of Windows 8 that runs natively on multi-core ARM processors like those from Nvidia (Tegra), Qualcomm (Snapdragon) and Texas Instruments (OMAP). This is good news for consumers who want a low power device that runs Windows however the bad news is that because it represents an entirely new platform, old Windows apps will not run on Windows RT. In other words Microsoft and other developers will have to port their Windows apps to Windows RT. Microsoft will be offering a scaled down version of Office for RT when it ships. Windows RT “apps” will be available from the Microsoft app store where you’ll also be able to purchase the same “Metro-style” apps for non-RT Windows 8. We understand that the same app you purchase will in many cases run on both WinRT and Win8 and can be installed on 5 devices at the same time. It looks like the Windows Phone Store will be the place to buy Windows Phone 8 apps.

Windows 8 Pro For $40?
The non-RT version of Windows 8 (called Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro) will run on Intel (and AMD) chips and will be fully compatible with older Windows applications the Pro version is expected to cost a very reasonable $40 (upgrade price). You won’t be able to purchase Windows RT as it comes pre-installed on devices like tablets. Unlike Windows RT, Office will not come pre-installed on Windows 8 computers but rather sold separately. A new version called Office 15 is expected to be available in 2013.
Initially there may be some confusion about apps and compatibility until consumers get used to the fact that there will be three types of Windows 8 apps; Windows Phone 8, Windows RT and Windows 8.

The Future of Windows 8
Don’t count on your IT department stopping by your cube to update your computer to Windows 8 on October 26th or anytime soon. For one thing the estimate is that half the computers in companies haven’t even been upgraded to Windows 7. Furthermore, fears of overloading the help desk with questions how to use the new UI may cause companies to wait and see, before diving in. On the other hand, new computers will likely come loaded with Windows 8 so we may see companies dealing with Windows 8 sooner or later.

The Success of Windows 8 is Critical
Microsoft and all the companies that run on Microsoft’s operating systems have a lot riding on Windows 8. Of all the Windows “players” like Dell, Toshiba, Acer, Sony and others, many don’t make much money on what Apple sells with the exception perhaps of Intel and Samsung whose components go into many Apple products and many software publishers whose applications also run on Apple devices. Windows 8 represents a chance for many hardware and software vendors to get back into the consumer market. So far it looks like Windows 8 could be off to a rough start but time will tell if device manufacturers and Microsoft can recapture that attraction with compelling products to give Apple (and Google) some competition.

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