Seventeen years ago I stood in a CompUSA at midnight to welcome the launch of the biggest change to computing since the graphical user interface: Windows 95. Windows 95 introduced the start menu and look to the Windows operating system that has endured to Windows 7. On Friday, October 26th we welcome Windows 8 and ready or not the world of Windows is about to change in a pretty dramatic way.
Before we get into the specifics on the launch let’s look at why Windows 95’s interface served us so well for so many years. Windows was created for a device called a mouse, which changed input with a computer from mostly keyboard based command keys to moving a mouse pointer and selecting items on screen. Windows 3.x had folders and icons but no ordered way of locating and launching programs, documents or files. Often the fastest way was still to use old command line or keyboard shortcuts.
Today we have touch screen technology that looked like science fiction in 1995. (Don’t believe me? Watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and look at the touch screen device Captain Picard uses… looks familiar doesn’t it?) With touch screen computing on the rise and more people browsing the web on phones, tablets and laptops, Microsoft needed to think of how to change Windows to work equally well with touch as it has in the past with the mouse. This is the guiding principal behind the new interface design and the retirement of the start button.
WorldStart will have extensive coverage of Windows 8 including tips, tricks, installation videos and troubleshooting… but what do you need to know about Windows 8 right now?
Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 are not the same thing. Windows 8 RT is a tablet only operating system designed to run on ARM cpu’s which require special code and special programs. Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro run on traditional processors (like Intel i5 or AMD A8 series) and can run all of your regular existing windows applications. Don’t buy a tablet with Windows 8 RT expecting to install a piece of software you bought 2 years ago or download a game made for Windows 7 to it.
You don’t need to buy it immediately. Windows 7 is a stable, well-designed operating system which is going to be supported for many years to come. Large companies upgrade very slowly. Microsoft makes a very large amount of money on these customers so security patches, updates and improvements will continue to come to Windows 7.
Windows 8 still has the old desktop and will still run Windows 7 applications. Microsoft knew they couldn’t pull the rug out from under everyone, so behind the new Windows 8 interface is still the old desktop which you can access by clicking the Desktop tile. Programs designed for Windows 7 will launch to the desktop and display just like you’re used to seeing them. The only difference will be the program’s shortcut will be on the new interface (previously called Metro) versus on a start button.
You can probably run Windows 8 on any PC that runs Windows 7. The only real catch is having a graphics card or built-in adapter that’s DirectX 9 compatible, though almost all video cards or integrated adapters sold within the last few years are.
Windows 8 comes in two different versions for laptop/desktop computers. There is Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. Windows 8 Pro includes all the features of Windows 8 but allows you to join corporate networks (called domains), includes BitLocker hard drive encryption and includes remote desktop server and Windows Media Center. Windows 8 Pro license keys can also be used to downgrade to Windows 7 if you choose (you will need to find windows 7 install media and reformat/reinstall windows from scratch.)
Windows 8 upgrades are discounted for a limited time. To encourage people to adopt Windows 8, Microsoft is offering $39.99 Windows 8 and $69.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrades until January 31st 2013. You can take advantage of this special pricing at many retailers or by going online to Microsoft by clicking here.
More to come in the following days, weeks and months and remember to send in your questions to us (especially those new Windows 8 ones) using our Ask WorldStart webpage by clicking here.