On Friday, Microsoft Corp. released a new version of its Windows operating system. Heres a primer:
Windows 8 – Like its predecessors, Windows 8 will run on computers with processing chips made by Intel Corp. or Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Theres a basic version designed for consumers and a Pro version for more tech-savvy users and businesses.
Windows RT – For the first time, theres also a version running on lower-energy chips common in phones and tablets. That version will run on tablets and some devices that marry tablet and PC features.
While tablets with Windows 8 can run standard Windows programs, RT devices will be restricted to specifically designed applications.
Borrowing from Apples playbook, Microsoft is allowing RT to get applications only from its online store, and apps must meet content and other guidelines.
Windows Phone 8 – The phone version wont be available until an unspecified date this fall. Microsoft has an event on it Monday and may announce more details then.
Heres how you can acquire – or opt out of – Windows 8:
Buy a new machine – Windows chief Steven Sinofsky said there have been 1,000 PCs certified for Windows 8, with the cheapest about $300.
Several PC manufacturers including Samsung, Lenovo Group Ltd., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. have designed new Windows 8 machines.
Upgrade your machine – Anyone who has bought a Windows 7 PC (other than the Starter Edition) since June 2 can buy Windows 8 Pro for $14.99. The offer applies to Windows 7 PCs sold until Jan. 31, and the upgrade must be claimed by Feb. 28. To claim the offer, register the machine at https://windowsupgradeoffer.com.
If you bought a Windows PC before June 2, you can upgrade for $39.99. You must already have Windows XP with Service Pack 3, Windows Vista or Windows 7.
Those who prefer to buy a DVD to upgrade will have to pay $69.99. Before buying the upgrade, check to make sure your machine is strong enough to run Windows 8.
Keep older versions – Do nothing if you do not wish to upgrade to Windows 8.
Most machines now on sale will have the new version of Windows, though its still possible to buy Windows 7 machines or upgrade to Windows 7. Microsoft hasnt said what the cutoff date for Windows 7 will be but expect to be able to buy it as an upgrade for another year or preinstalled on a new machine for two more years.
Microsoft plans to continue providing technical support for Windows 7 until Jan. 14, 2020.