Have you been wondering how Microsoft's Windows 7 and Windows 8 compare? I just thought a quick look at the features in both Windows 7 and Windows 8 might help answer the question:

Is there any reason for me to upgrade to Windows 8?

To start with, Windows 8 is a pretty big departure from the succession of Window operating systems (OS) starting with Windows XP. Windows 7 is the last of that line, and by most accounts is a solid and very functional OS.

Windows 7, XP, and Vista combined still account for 81 percent of PC operating systems. The reason why Windows 8 is such a big departure is because it is designed to work on all computing formats including mobile phones, tablet computers, and all types of PCs.

Mobile computing now leads the way in our post-PC world. Shipments of smartphones exceeded those of PCs way back in 2011.

A version of Windows 8, called Windows RT launched in October at the same times as Windows 8. It runs on the new Microsoft Surface RT tablet. But Windows 8 or versions of it will run on an array of smartphones, laptops, hybrid laptops, desktop computers, and tablet computers. 

Windows 7 and Windows 8: The Main Differences

The big difference between Windows 8 and Windows 7 is that Windows 8 is optimized much more to work on touch screen devices. It supports a wide range of multi-touch gestures, for instance for scrolling, panning, rotating, enlarging, and so on.

Even though Windows 8 is optimized for use with a touch screen, you can still use your existing mouse, keyboard, and non-touch screen monitor to use your desktop.

Touch screens are now common on smartphones and tablets of all types, but still relatively rare on desktop PCs, and laptops, but they are expected to become much more common soon.

Have a look at Squidoo's roster of touch screen laptops, and touch screen monitors for desktop PCs, and also touch screen kiosks that are appearing in more and more public places like airports.

The most noticeable difference between Windows 7 and Windows 8 is the look and feel of the interface. With Windows 7, everything hinges off of the Start Menu in the lower-left corner of the screen. That's been there in Windows versions for many years.

With Windows 8 you get a more smartphone or tablet looking start screen with an array of apps on the desktop to choose from. It is possible for users to get a classic Windows-style start menu on their Windows 8 PCs if they prefer that. There are apps for that. They have names like StartMenu7, Classic Shell, or ViStart.

Other Major New Windows 8 Features

  • Windows 8 offers better integration with Microsoft cloud services. Each Windows 8 device comes with a ready-to-use Windows Live SkyDrive account, where you can access and store your documents and other files.
  • Windows 8 also stores all your settings in the cloud so you can log on to any Windows 8 device and it will come up with your familiar apps and settings, including your Internet Explorer history and your photo collection.
  • Windows 8 now has Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus software integrated in the OS.
  • Windows 8 starts up twice as fast as Windows 7 and much much faster than Windows XP.
  • Windows 8 has a much-improved dynamic search function.
  • Windows 8 also relies much more heavily on Windows apps that you can obtain at the Windows Store for free or low cost. (One concern people have raised is that some of the pre-installed modern apps that live on the Start screen carry unsolicited ads. You have to pay extra to have the ads removed. Also, Windows 8 devices run two kinds of apps: modern and desktop apps.)

Some Windows 8 Downsides

One current downside of Windows 8 compared with Windows 7 is that Windows 8 doesn't natively run many older Windows software applications. You can run older Windows applications, but you have to use Desktop, which is an app that is essentially a virtual Windows 7 environment.

Windows also has a "compatibility mode" that provides an emulation for nearly all previous versions of Windows. This also helps run older Windows applications. Given the dramatic change in Windows 8, I'm told that this was probably unavoidable.

Visit Microsoft's Windows 8 Compatibility Center to see if your existing software applications will work with Windows 8.

Fremake.com also lists the top 10 Windows 7 features that will be gone in Windows 8. The ones I'd tend to miss are the backup and restore function, recent documents, and DVD support.

The Bottom Line: To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade

So. Given all that, is there any reason for your organization to upgrade to Windows 8?

In a nutshell, I’d say that if your Windows 7 or other OS based computer system is stable and working well, then there’s probably no urgency to upgrade. One caveat is if you’re still using Windows XP. Microsoft is planning to end its support for Windows XP and also Office 2003 in 2014.

If you're getting some new PCs with Windows 8, or if members of your office are getting smartphones with Windows Phone 8, or Surface tablets, then you may well consider upgrading to Windows 8.

It is a reasonable IT strategy if you want to standardize your IT system on a single OS family. We have also found that older PCs work well using Windows 8.

For much more on whether Windows 8 is a good fit for your organization, check out my colleague Ginny Mies' Should You Upgrade to Windows 8? Questions to Consider.

More Views of Windows 8 and Windows 7