The big difference when making the jump to Windows 8 is the initial user interface. The stuff you work with first – the desktop and start menu. There are lots of new features in Windows 8, but this is really what it’s going to come down to when you are making your decision, and probably will depend mostly on whether or not you will be working with a touch screen. First, the Start button is gone. It has been replaced with a hotspot that appears in the lower left corner when you mouse over it. You can also get to it by hovering in the upper right, and clicking on the start charm (think icon). The right side brings up some other options, also including the start charm, settings, search, etc. If you are using a tablet or touch screen, you can swipe from the left or right to access these charms. You can also get to the start screen by pressing the Windows key.
As with most new operating systems – you will find most of the same apps and options from the previous version, but the will likely be in a new place or work in a slightly different way. There will be a learning curve. There will also be multiple versions of Windows 8. In addition to the same Home and Pro options, you will also see Windows RT devices. Windows RT devices are essentially Microsoft’s version of the iPad. While Windows RT will look a lot like Windows 8, it has one major difference – it can’t run legacy applications. That means: you can’t install your current copy of Civilization V or that old address book program you still have on floppy disk. Every app for Windows RT will have to come from the app store. Windows 8, however, will run most legacy programs as well as apps from the app store. You will find tablets running both versions, so make sure you are getting what you expect.
There is much more to Windows 8 than can be covered here, but I hope this gives you a basic idea of what it is about and if it is what you want or not. If you don’t mind learning something new and are looking to purchase a shiny convertible laptop or have been waiting for an iPad running Windows, pull the trigger. If you don’t want to use a touch screen or are looking at upgrading your current laptop or desktop, you may want to wait.