What is Windows 8?
Windows 8 is a new operating system that Microsoft debuted in October 2012. It is a pretty big deal in the computer world because it is the first time that Microsoft has completely redesigned its OS since Windows 1995.
Why else is it a big deal?
For one thing, it's designed to be used with both computers and touchscreen tablets and computers. Instead of a Start button, it has a Start Menu (picture an entire screen instead of a single button), and Microsoft has developed its own app store that are meant to be used with Windows 8-enabled devices.
Are there different kinds of Windows 8?
Yes. There is Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows RT and Windows Enterprise.
How can I get Windows 8?
As of this writing (October 2012), you can download Windows 8 Pro for $39.99. If you want a boxed copy shipped to you, you will have to shell out $69.99. Windows 8 (the non-Pro version) won't be available until 2013, and Windows RT can only be obtained by purchasing a new device with it already pre-installed. Windows Enterprise is only for businesses. Microsoft has a breakdown of the differences between the consumer versions here.
Will I need to buy new computer peripherals to use with Windows 8?
No. Your old peripherals should work just fine, although you will not be able to take full advantage of many of the Windows 8 features. Some companies have developed mice and keyboards that are designed specifically for use with Windows 8 computers and tablets.
There have been some reports of compatibility issues with some peripherals and the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and some of the advice so far points to reinstalling the device drivers. You can typically find these from the peripheral's website.
Where can I find out more about Windows 8?
There are many helpful articles about the new operating system on About.com. In honor of the OS's new number, here are eight in particular: