It's coming. It's scary, weird, and may upset you, but it's inevitable and I'm going to tell you how to deal with it.

It's called Windows 8 and it's the biggest change to Windows since, well, we went from dark screens with prompts to Windows 95.

Here's what you need to know about Windows 8 and and, more importantly, why it matters.

Windows 8 is really two operating systems. The "main" system, code-named Metro, consists of a special "touch" interface that features a number of live tiles that change based on data. They can display emails, weather widgets, notifications, and even photos. Think of them as mini-apps that grow into full apps when you click on them. If you've used Windows Phone, Microsoft's new phone operating system, these will be familiar.

When you use Metro the computer becomes a mobile device. It's all touch (or click) all the time and there's very little typing involved. Metro is, in short, as different from Windows as you can get.

Unfortunately, Windows isn't quite fully baked. In order to handle things like managing files, writing letters, editing photos, and the like, many apps end up in the "real" Windows interface that you know and maybe love. Think of Metro as a hot tub and the old interface as the pool. The hot tub sure is nice, but the real swimming gets done in the pool.

Arguably, the new Windows has some great features. For one, it has excellent parental controls that allow you manage what the kids can access. It's also visually pleasing and offers a considerable upgrade to the browsing and photo-handling experience. In short, if you love your tablet, you'll like Metro.

However, be warned: the jump between Metro and the "old" Windows is jarring, and until most apps are Windows 8-ready, there will be a lot of bouncing back and forth. Do you need to install Windows 8 right now? Probably not. I'd wait until either you're ready to upgrade your laptop/PC hardware or, barring that, install it next year when apps will be Win8 ready.

It's a huge change, to be sure, and I'm actually kind of excited by it. But it's pretty "out there," and I doubt your office computer will be getting an upgrade soon. Change comes quickly in computing but acceptance comes slowly. It's going to be a wild ride.

Do you think you'll wind up using Windows 8 at some point?

 

Image via Microsoft