There's been a lot of chatter about Windows 8 in the last two weeks, even though Microsoft hasn't yet announced the official release date of their next OS (current tech insider information predicts a Q4 2012 release). If you're wondering what all the hoopla is all about (and even this Mac user is feeling anticipation after seeing some of the features) then you should read on for all the major changes on the horizon...
The main reason why people are talking about Windows 8 is that this September, a developer preview was released. This allows people working on software for PCs to check out and work with the newest version of the Windows operating system.
1. Metro UI: This is probably the most talked about feature of Windows 8. If you've used a Windows 7 phone, then this will be very familiar. By default, the desktop doesn't load when Windows 8 starts up, the Metro UI does. Once you leave a Metro UI app, it's suspended so it doesn't use up any processing power. It functions like apps do on the iPhone, iPad or Android phones. The Windows 8 Metro UI is aimed more casual and consumer users, making it a lot easier to use, kind of like iOS devices. This doesn't mean that you can't multitask with apps as you're used to. It's just a different way of using the OS, which is enabled by default.
2. Home Screen: This is basically the new way of accessing the Start menu. Your screen is filled with tiles, after you login from the new Lock Screen. You'll also find tiles representing your news feeds and the Microsoft App Store. This is how you'll launch Metro UI apps.
3. Microsoft App Store: The only way to get new Metro UI apps is to get them from the Microsoft App Store. Microsoft has obviously learned from the Mac App Store's success and is trying to make the whole app experience easier for users. This will make installing, uninstalling, updating, and managing apps a lot simpler. Don't worry, there's still a traditional Control Panel.
4. Desktop: Windows 8 treats the desktop just like any other app. You can Alt+Tab your way into it or press Win+M to get to it directly. There's no Start menu enabled by default. It's a lot cleaner. You can access the Device, Settings, Search, and Share bars by hovering over the Windows icon.
5. New Task Manager: The Task Manager hasn't been updated much over the last few years, but it will get a revamp in Windows 8. It will have an advanced tab you to do more with it but if you're a casual user, you won't need to bother with it.