(MoneyWatch) Mark your calendar. This Friday, Oct. 26, is the big day; a day that Microsoft has been working towards for 3 years. No, I'm not talking about Bill Gates' birthday -- that's on October 28. I'm referring to the day that Windows 8 is officially available for purchase on new PCs and as a standalone upgrade for your existing computer. Is Windows 8 right for you?
There are a lot of things to like about Windows 8, but make no mistake: There are a lot of rough edges in this newest edition of Windows as well. Today, let's take a look at some of the most compelling reasons to step up to Windows 8, and for some counterpoint, check outas well.
It's the cheapest upgrade in the history of Windows. Microsoft is offering Windows 8 for the surprisingly low price of just $40 -- at least for the next few months. Even if you don't have any immediate plans to upgrade, at that price, it might make sense to grab a copy now and just put it on the shelf for a few months until you're ready to experiment.
Sync with the cloud. Windows 8 finally embraces online storage and online synchronization, and it does this in both big and little ways. You might already know that Microsoft's SkyDrive service is now baked into both Office and the Windows file system, so you can save and open online files from pretty much anywhere. But what might be less obvious is that your overall PC settings are synced to the cloud as well. That means if you have more than one computer running Windows 8, they can all share the same personalization settings, so you only need to configure one PC and all the others will fall in line automatically.
File History lets your open previous versions. Recent editions of Windows have had a little-known feature called Previous Versions, which (on a good day) let you recover older versions of files in case you needed to "roll back" to something you did a week or a month ago. It was well hidden and difficult to use. But Windows 8 has built on the foundation of Previous Versions to give you File History, and it promises to make it much easier to recover older versions of files.
There's an app store. You might not think this is an especially big deal, but it is. Microsoft doesn't talk about this much, but the Windows ecosystem -- the community of developers writing and releasing new software -- is in decline. Windows might still be the biggest OS on the planet, but developers are abandoning it in droves to release apps for sexier platforms like iOS and Android. By supporting developers with a store, Microsoft hopes to reinvigorate the platform and bring fresh, exciting new software to Windows. Without a store, Windows best days might well be behind it. And that means Windows 7 software will continue to get less and less varied and interesting.
One paradigm for all your devices. This has been an off-again, on-again strategy for Microsoft since the 1990s, but imagine for a moment how simple life would be if all of your computing devices -- from PC all the way down to your tablet and phone -- worked pretty much the same way, and even shared settings and personality. That's what Windows 8 offers -- assuming you like the experience of using the OS to begin with, you can transition from Windows 8 on the desktop to Windows 8 on a Surface tablet to Windows Phone 8 -- even the Windows 8-like interface on the Xbox home entertainment system.
Windows 8 is the most significant change to Microsoft's operating system since the move from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. The difference: Windows 95 wasn't especially controversial; Windows 8 is. What's your take? Will you be upgrading? Check out my 5 reasons not to upgrade tomorrow, and sound off in the comments today.