HOUSTON—Last week Microsoft started shipping out copies of its new Windows 8 operating system to computer makers. It won’t be on store shelves until October, so you have plenty of time to do some research and decide whether or not to upgrade.
There is so much anticipation over the software, over the weekend someone already illegally uploaded an early copy of it to the Internet.
The biggest change with Windows 8 is the fact that it is a solid competitor to Android and Apple’s iPad and iPhone. That's because Windows 8 was designed not only for regular computers but also tablets and smartphones.
In the sneak peeks released by Microsoft, it’s hard not to notice Windows 8 looks very different from its predecessors. There’s no longer a “desktop” with icons all over the place, and you’ll notice the “start bar” at the bottom is gone, too (although it has an option to turn it back on).
Windows 8 has what Microsoft calls a “tiles based” interface, made to work with a traditional mouse-and-keyboard computer but also on touch screen devices.
Microsoft claims this version of Windows will boot up faster than any version before it, and it will include software to easily back-up your entire computer to a USB drive.
Another big change for Microsoft: they’re making their own tablet computer for the first time ever, based entirely on Windows 8. Called “Surface,” Microsoft’s first tablet will come in two variations later this year and early in 2013. Surface has a fold-up keyboard that also serves as a screen protector. There’s no word on pricing quite yet.
Windows 8 will also come on a variety of mobile devices not made by Microsoft, including laptops, tablets, and phones.
Microsoft’s pricing on Windows 8 has been announced, however, and it is very aggressive. An upgrade will only cost you about $40, which is a lot less than what Windows usually costs.
If you’re already using Windows Vista or 7, your computer should have no problem handling 8. If you’re still using XP, you’ll probably need a new computer altogether as your hardware won’t be enough to handle the new operating system.
Thinking about making the switch from an Android or Apple mobile device? Wait until Windows 8 comes out later this year before you decide, and wait even longer to see if it can compete with the almighty iPad.