If you didn't get the news recently, Microsoft has started to unveil some of the details of the the next version of Windows, Windows 8. The shell (strangely) looks like the one you find in the Windows Phone operating system. Rather than the traditional desktop with icons and the start menu, the desktop is now comprised of "live tiles". While there is support for the traditional methods of input such as a mouse or hardware keyboard, Windows 8 has a new soft keyboard for tablets and slates, which takes up quite a bit of the screen. If you don't have a touchscreen, there will probably be a way to disable it.
If you're wondering about compatibility with programs written for older versions of Windows, fear not, for Microsoft has built a "compatibility mode" into Windows 8 for those older programs. This compatibility mode looks just like the Windows 7 shell, but it's integrated with the overall look and feel of Windows 8. This, I'm sure, will be a big need of enterprise users if they are ever going to adopt Windows 8.
Unlike Windows Phone, Windows 8 actually has a File Manager (unlike Windows Phone, which does not have a file manager)! However, the file manager has changed a bit to fit the new interface (particularly with music, pictures, and videos). If you don't like it, you can still go back to the traditional look of the file manager. Windows Media Player has taken up the Zune interface that is present in the Zune itself and Windows Phone, with (probably) no option to take the old Windows Media Player interface. There is also no word on whether Windows Media Player will be the only way to play media or if 3rd party media players will be allowed, but I'm guessing that there will be some 3rd party players allowed because of the compatibility with older versions of Windows.
From the look of the new Start screen, we see an icon for a "Windows Marketplace". I assume it will work just like the Windows Phone marketplace. However, I am glad that the marketplace will not be the only method to load programs on to the system (as it is in Windows Phone), and you can install programs the traditional way too.
Multi-tasking looks like it will work just like it will in Mango, the next version of Windows Phone. The window manager allows you to change the screen so that you can have more than 1 program on the screen at a time. This is true even with the programs for older versions of Windows, but the compatibility mode
counts as a "program".
There is no official word yet (that I know of) on support for Windows 8 with ARM processors. If computers with ARM processors CAN run Windows 8, those computers will not be able to run programs designed for older versions of Windows (due to the processor that those older programs were compiled for and you can't change unless you compile those programs for an ARM processor) unless Microsoft builds some kind of emulator into Windows 8. If anyone knows of some official word on this, please enlighten me.
With Windows 8 still in the labs, there isn't a whole lot that I can tell you about it, but I know that it will definitely change the Windows shell forever (just as Windows 95 did). I can say that the system requirements to run Windows 8 will probably break the "new version of windows so you need better hardware to run it" mentality that has been with every new major version of Windows since Microsoft is also trying to target the tablet and slate crowd as well as the desktop and laptop crowd. Stay tuned as I will be coming out with more details in the coming weeks as Microsoft makes things known to us.
Edit: Here's the video so you can see some of the changes for yourself