Now that the Windows 8 operating system is available – it was released to manufacturing in August 2012, and for general use at the end of October 2012 – the question is what benefits will make it worth the consumer’s while to upgrade, says Cindy du Toit, Microsoft specialist at Drive Control Corporation (DCC).
All new notebooks from major distributors are already being shipped with Windows 8. There are reports of four million upgrades sold worldwide within three days of its release, and 40-million licences (mostly OEMs) bought in the first month.
As the world becomes increasingly mobile, it seems this operating system (OS), designed for mobile and punted as signalling “a revolution in the way people use computers” has a lot to offer.
The Metro user interface is totally new, with a dynamically updating grid of tiles representing applications and a Charms Bar (swipe it in from the right of the screen) with settings, search and shortcuts.
While a new interface may be an immediate pain point for some, there’s a lot to be said for moving out of a comfort zone. While this OS is made for PC and mobile devices, it’s tailored for touchscreen devices. And it comes with a host of benefits for the fast evolving personal and business computing arenas.
Windows 8 gives users the ability to synchronise applications and settings between multiple devices, such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
And it’s all cloud connected: the moment users sign in with their Microsoft account, their personalised settings are loaded, including WiFi, e-mail, calendar and people applications, and they stay in sync across all devices. SkyDrive lets users access files, wherever they are.
Sharing information is also super simple with Tap and Do. It lets users tap two mobile devices together if they have near field communications (NFC) to share information. Tap and Setup lets users tap wireless devices, like keyboards, mice, headphones and speakers, against the PC to connect them, eliminating complicated setups.
Windows 8 also has built in support for 3G and 4G, so connecting to a cellular network is as easy as connecting to a wireless network. As for business users, features like Windows To Go lets users carry their Windows with them – booting and running from USB flash drives or external hard drives.
Enhancements have also been made to BitLocker and AppLocker, so data is kept safe while worker productivity remains high.
Windows 8 also introduces Internet Explorer 10. Internet Explorer 10 is fast and comes in two flavours: one for a desktop; and another for touchscreen devices. There is also a Windows store, which industry watchers expect will grow rapidly with the release of Windows 8.
As to the features of Windows 8 versus Windows 8 Pro, both come with the start screen with live tiles, the ability to personalise applications (pin favourite apps), a picture password option, access to the Windows Store, and the ability to sync across devices.
Windows Pro additionally has BitLocker, which lets users encrypt their entire drive to help protect against loss and theft; Advanced Backup, which allows users to backup data to another drive; DVD or network location; and Remote Desktop.
Should users upgrade now? There’s a lot to be said for Windows 8. Major distributors now have Windows 8 in stock, so users should chat to a Microsoft specialist about what they need.