Windows 8 isn't just an update to Windows 7 - it is a complete redefintion of the user interface that can take advantage of modern hardware.
Windows 7 may have been the first version of Windows to natively support touchscreens, Windows 8 will live in the age of multi-touch UIs and diverse computing form factors.
So, what does that mean for IT managers planning their computer fleet out for the next three years?
The good news, according to Microsoft, is that any PC that can run Windows 7 will be able to run Windows 8. That means older netbooks with Atom processors and just 1GB of RAM can run Windows 8. In the enterprise, it means that if you decide to upgrade your fleet, it's likely that you won't be forced into a hardware refresh.
However, as you plan for new hardware we'd suggest keeping an open mind. Most of the major desktop makers make all-in-one systems with touchscreens. As well as reducing desktop clutter, this form factor is both a suitable platform for Windows 7 and supports a transition to Windows 8 that delivers support for some of the newest features.
Things will change signfiicantly when it comes to tablets. Until now, Windows has operated on the assumption that the computer it is running on has a keyboard. Tablets will need a way to execute the three-finger salute - Ctrl+Alt+Del - so Microsoft has decreed that new tablets will use Windows Key+Power instead.
All tablets must have a rotation lock button, Windows key, Volume Up and Down buttons, a USB 2.0 port, magnetometer, speakers, Bluetooth 4.0, WLAN, gyroscope and accelerometer. Any camera must have a minimum resolution of 720p and the the minimum display for any tablet is 1366 x 768 with the ability to update graphics drivers without rebooting.
This article forms part of a three-part enterprise guide to Windows 8. Read on for:
So, what are the vendors doing? Research from Forrester says that all of the major OEMs are preparing new products to take advantage of the many new features Windows 8 brings.
Participants at Microsoft's BUILD conference are already trialling a Samsung tablet. Michael Dell, meanwhile, has promised a "wide range" of Windows 8 products.
On the server side, the absolute minimum hardware requirement is a 64-bit CPU with a clock speed of at least 1.4GHz, 2GB of memory and 32GB of disk space.