QWIKI: What's Windows 8?

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Windows 8 is Microsoft's next version of Windows, but it's much more than that. It's also the biggest change ever made to the Windows operating system we've all known.

The main desktop has been replaced with a Start Screen or homescreen of tiles. These tiles are a lot like the ones in Windows Phone - they are apps, but the tile can surface information about what is going on inside that app right on the homescreen. For instance, you can see how many emails you have on the email app or the current temperature on the weather app.

So how do you get those apps? Microsoft is going to launch its own store when Windows 8 is available. We've already gotten a look at some of those apps here, and many of them are very well designed and easy-to-use. You can also run older desktop style apps, since there is a regular desktop. You can switch between the desktop and the start screen, but you'll likely be spending more of your time on the start screen.

The other major change? Windows 8 was really built with tablets in mind. The whole operating system was made for the touch of a finger. You can swipe from the edges to bring up the "charms" or main controls for navigating the software. But you can also use a mouse and keyboard. Microsoft says it is a "no compromise" operating system. So while Apple has its iOS for the iPad and OS X for its laptops and desktops, Microsoft is aiming to kill two birds with one stone. Of course, Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn't agree, and likens Windows 8 to converging a toaster and refrigerator.

That said, Windows 8 looks promising. When will it be out? Microsoft hasn't confirmed anything yet, but it appears that by the end of the year we will start to see Windows 8 laptops, desktops, and tablets.

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