Windows 8 is complete and ready to rock and roll…are you ready?

Microsoft has released Windows 8 to manufacturing. This simply means that companies like Dell and HP now have the ‘final code’ for the new operating system and can begin to pre-install it on their products. Microsoft also released the server version to manufacturing as well. October 26 is the general release date for the product (and, by extension, the Surface tablets running Windows RT will also be available.)

Win8LogoWhile the near final version of Windows 8 has been available for several months, the final version will, no doubt, yield a few surprises.  The removal of Aero and other changes to the look and feel of the operating system have yet to be revealed.

There are still those who feel that the operating system will be ‘another Vista.’  Hmm…if I were Microsoft, I would not feel bad at all about that.  Vista sold 300 million copies, hardly anything to sneeze at, not at all. However, I understand the analogy and I don’t think it will be the case. Windows 8 is, dare I say, beautiful. The ‘metro’ (I understand that Microsoft is now shying away from that word, yet I’ve not seen a replacement name for the style) style is gorgeous and, contrary to what some would want you to think, it is very easy to navigate with a keyboard and mouse. 

So, now that the operating system is going ‘gold’, here’s a few things you should know…

PRICE

Windows 8 will be available as an upgrade only. For the time being, it will sell for $40 (US). If you are running any version of Windows from XP up, you are eligible for the $40 upgrade through January 31, 2013. That is for the download version. If you want a disc, it will cost you thirty bucks more.

If you buy a new PC now, you can get the upgrade for $14.95 (US).

If you have MSDN or TechNet, you can download the RTM on August 15th.

HARDWARE

If your computer can run Vista or Windows 7, it will run Windows 8. 

Microsoft is releasing a line of keyboards, touchpads and mice that are designed to work with Windows 8 and Metro.  This line of hardware is designed to make the non-touch PC ‘easier’ to use with Windows 8.

Compatibility may be a problem for things like printers, serial and parallel devices and video cards.  It is now known that some older printers will not work with the operating system and, since most modern computers now lack serial and parallel ports, I’m not sure that is going to be a problem for most. However, if you have such a device and are using a USB adaptor, THAT could be a problem, especially if specialized drivers are involved. You might want to download and install the Release Preview first and try your hardware on that.  You can install it on a separate partition without losing your current installation.

APPLICATIONS

If your application runs under Windows 7, it should run under Windows 8.  Windows Vista software should also run. Software designed for older versions of Windows, like XP, should, generally, work with Windows 8 but, as with Vista and 7, no 16 bit applications will work. However, you can still use applications like VirtualBox or other virtual machines and install an older version of Windows and run the old software that way.

USABILITY

win8startWindows 8 boots really fast, faster than any previous version of Windows.  That won’t be the only thing you notice. No, the operating system will take you to a new start page. The start page resembles Windows Phone 7/8 in that instead of the standard desktop, you have tiles with the app icon. Tiles can be ‘live’ in that the associated application can present information in the tiles, like weather, free space, etc. When you switch to the standard desktop, the thing you see-or don’t see-is the lack of the Start orb. Microsoft removed the orb to force people to use the start page to launch applications.  However, you can still pin things to the task bar as well as create desktop shortcuts, so I don’t understand the furor over the removal of the Start orb.  I rarely use it under 7 and do not miss it for Windows 8 at all.  While it is true that ‘metro’ is best suited for touch devices, it is very easy to use with the mouse and keyboard, though a certain learning curve does exist.  For some information on using the keyboard and mouse, go here.

Windows 7 is the best version of Windows yet, but I feel that Windows 8 may give it a run for the money.  Windows 7 will, likely, have the same very long legs as Windows XP and will, likely, outlive Windows 8. However, the success of the operating system is largely dependent on the success of several products: Surface and Windows 8 tablets, Windows Phone 8 and developers.  Yep, developers.  No, developers are not products, but they produce products and if there are few compelling ‘metro’ applications, then 8 will be relegated to the bargain bin.  With everything that Microsoft is doing to entice developers, I am confident that there will be a plethora of apps that will make 8 worthwhile (or, rather, metro.)

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