Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface for Freelancers

Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface are out and they might prove to be both useful and challenging for freelancers.

Whenever a new operating system, like Windows 8, is announced, there are a bunch of people who jump in early and try the latest and, hopefully, greatest. Often, the changes are smooth but experienced journalist Bill Bennett as found that Windows 8 upgrade fast, not foolproof. It’s woth a short look.

With the release of the Microsoft Surface tablet and other, similar products from other vendors it’s worth understanding that not all the new tablets hitting the market are the same. Windows now comes in two versions; Windows 8 and Windows RT. Trying to work out the difference is tricky as they look the same but under the covers they are quite different. I recently wrote Windows RT vs Windows 8: Which Surface for work? for Business IT ( covering some of the differences.

One of the big advantages of the new Microsoft Surface over the iPad is that it includes a proper version of Microsoft Office and an external keyboard that is integrated into the case. There are plenty of alternatives that are iPad-friendly but getting those extras in the box is quite handy.

Should you upgrade to Windows 8?

I’d suggest that if your current computer is working well that there’s no compelling reason to upgrade. When you buy your next computer it will come with Windows 8 (assuming you’re not a Mac user). Until then, I wouldn’t bother.

However, if you picked up a laptop recently that has a touchscreen – many computer makers have been shipping touchscreens on selected models for the last couple of years – then Windows 8 might be useful. If you decide to move up, be prepared for some significant change. David Pogue, from the New York Times, published a Windows 8 Cheat Sheet and summary of what to expect.

Microsoft Surface, iPad or Android tablet?

This is an interesting question. I like my Nexus 7 tablet as an eBook reader, email reader and calendar. I don’t use it for writing more than the occasional email or note as the 7-inch screen is great for reading but doesn’t work for me for input. I believe that that the new iPad mini will be similar.

Larger tablets, with screens between 9-inches and 10-inches are much better for data input as the onscreen keyboards are more finger-friendly.

Functionally, all three platforms are very similar. Many of the differences between the three are cosmetic but I like the way Android and Windows 8 make your data more visible than the iPad.

Windows 8 or Windows RT?

Microsoft has released two new, different operating systems. The confusion comes from them both looking the same.It’s not unlike car makers who release similar looking models but one is two-wheel drive and the other is four-wheel drive.

Windows RT will only come pre-installed on tablets like the Microsoft Surface. You can’t buy it in a store and install it to your existing computer.

Windows 8 can be purchased from a store, in a box, and you can install it to your own computer. There’s a regular version and Pro version.

Lifehacker Australia has a useful guide to all the different versions of Windows 8 that’s worth a look.