The Way You Use Windows Is About To Change Forever — Here's What You Need To Know

windows 8 on acer ultrabook

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

Starting this fall, any new PC you buy is going to look radically different.That’s because Microsoft will release Windows 8, a drastic reimagining of its iconic operating system. 

If you’re not ready for the change, Windows 8 is going to seem pretty jarring. Everything from the way you access apps to the devices you’ll be using the operating system on is going to change. 

So to get you prepared, we put together all the most important stuff coming to Windows 8.

Windows 8 will look radically different than what you're used to

So what is this you're looking at?

It's the new 'Start' screen for Windows 8. Microsoft calls this its 'Metro' interface. It's designed primarily for touchscreens, but you'll be able to use it with a keyboard and mouse too.

The Start screen is loaded with 'Live Tiles' that launch your apps. The Live Tiles can also display bits of information such as unread emails and weather without you having to open the app. If you've used a Windows Phone before, you should be pretty used to this.

But don't worry! You'll still have the classic desktop mode, just in case

But what if you're still in love with the old-school Windows look?

You're in luck!

Microsoft will include a desktop mode that lets you revert to the classic Windows layout. All you have to do is click on the 'Desktop' tile from the Start Menu. You'll feel right at home.

It will run on tablets

Microsoft will adopt a different strategy with Windows 8, allowing the operating system to run on both traditional desktops and new tablets.

The Windows 8 Marketplace will be full of apps

What good is a PC or tablet without apps? Windows 8 will have a market that's chock full of them. An early version of the market is live now in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and it's full of popular apps such as Evernote, Cut The Rope, and USA Today. You can bet there'll be a bunch more once Windows 8 launches this fall.

Apps will likely be compatible with the next version of Windows Phone

Microsoft is expected to launch a new version of its Windows Phone operating system later this year. According to some reports, Windows Phone 8 will have a lot in common with Windows 8. That means it's likely developers will be able to write apps that work on both Windows Phones and Windows 8 tablets.

There will be a few different versions of Windows 8. Here's the breakdown

There will be two main versions of Windows 8: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.

Let's start with Windows 8. This basic version will probably be the version you buy. It comes with all the goodies and features we've already discussed such as the new app store, Metro interface, and a redesigned version of Internet Explorer.

Windows 8 Pro will have some advanced features for power users such as encryption options and remote desktop. You'll also be able to buy Windows Media centre as a separate add-on.

You can get more information on the different Windows 8 versions here.

But wait, there's one more important version!

Be on the lookout for tablets running something called 'Windows RT.'

What is that?

Windows RT is designed to run on tablets running on processors called ARM, the same low-powered chips that the iPad and several Android tablets use today. ARM chips are perfect for mobile devices like tablets because they don't suck up a lot of battery, yet are powerful enough to run heavy applications.

If you're looking for an alternative to the iPad, a Windows RT tablet is the one to look at.

You can sync your personalised settings on any Windows 8 PC

If you use multiple PCs, Windows 8 will let you access all your settings and preferences no matter which one you use. All you have to do is create a Windows login ID and your stuff will sync to the cloud.

Get ready for a bunch of new touchscreen PCs

Since Windows 8 was built with touchscreens in mind, expect to see a bunch of new all-in-one touchscreen PCs this fall. We've already seen some prototypes from the likes of Sony and Toshiba, and it's only natural to assume the other big-name manufacturers are working on the same.

And get ready for a bunch of laptop/tablet hybrids

We're also expecting to see a bunch of laptop/tablet hybrids. These devices are super-thin laptops that can fold up into a touchscreen tablet.

Microsoft sees Windows 8 as a way to converge all our favourite devices (tablets, laptops, and desktops) under one operating system. That means we're going to see a bunch of different form factors running Windows 8.

Who will make Windows 8 tablets?

Well, everyone it seems like. So far we're pretty sure we'll see Windows 8 tablets from the following (Warning! This is hardly a complete list!):

  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Lenovo
  • HP
  • Dell
  • Toshiba

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