Microsoft Windows 8: Operating Desktops, Laptops, and Tablets

How does Microsoft Windows 8 work on desktops, laptops and tablets? Are there any major differences? Windows 8 represents Microsoft’s latest operating system due to hit the public retail markets on October 26. It brings forth major innovations and a powerful paradigm change enabling one OS to be capable of running on desktops and tablets.

As a single package, Windows 8 consists of two operating modes, one for desktops and laptops accessible by mouse and keyboard and the other representing the touchscreen user interface for mobile tablets and smartphones. One interface, the Modern UI, lies on top of all platforms. These platforms can be group under three versions:

  • Windows 8 Home is an operating system on desktops and laptops fueled by Intel and AMD processors
  • Windows 8 Pro for business users and optimal power users, also for desktops and laptops
  • Windows RT for mobile devices, tablets and smartphones, running on ARM processors

The Modern UI has been designed clearly from the main graphic features of smartphone and tablet technologies. It uses large graphic rectangles, “tiles,” to represent software, the apps or applications that users touch or click.

On desktops, the tiles are manipulated with a mouse and keyboard. The same method holds for laptops with the additional use of multitouch gestures on the trackpad. Full touchscreen functionality is provided for tablets and smartphones. This includes the gestures of swiping, two-finger pinch to zoom and two-finger scrolling.

Differing from their other smaller tablet icons, the Modern UI tiles as symbols are themselves live and active with information. The weather tile shows updates on the weather, the email tail indicates the most recent email received. On desktops and laptops, the tiles can be manipulated by the mouse and keyboard. On tablets, they are manipulated by the contemporary mobile technologies of touch and gestures.


Running Microsoft Windows 8 on desktops provides the new experience of accessing commonly used programs through tiles of the Modern UI. A differentiation is made between legacy Windows programs and those created as apps to run on the Windows Run Time environment – the configuration of Window 8 for ARM-cpu tablets.

Desktops are able to provide more power from the Intel or AMD CPUs required to run such programs as Photoshop and the new Office 13 Suite. There is a version of the Office Suite for Window 8 RT tablet environment, it’s just not as feature-laden as the original.

The standard Desktop view from Windows 7 and its previous version is still available by clicking on the Desktop or Windows Explorer Tile in the Modern UI. It brings up the familiar Desktop and a new File Explorer window offering a ribbon menu and better organization of tools.

A major change is that there is no standard Start button available in the Desktop view. Microsoft felt that its redesign of accessing commonly used programs through the tiles on the Modern UI Start Screen and the Charms bar provides better solutions. The Control Panel and Task Manager appear in better formats by clicking the Computer graphic on the File Explorer ribbon.


Just as desktops can appear as Microsoft Windows 8 Home and Microsoft Windows 8 Pro, so will laptops. The enhanced Ultrabook laptop models with Windows Pro will be empowered with advanced Intel and AMD core processors to run Microsoft legacy software. The major accomplishment from Microsoft is that you will be able to use touchscreen gestures on the trackpad to operate app tiles on the Start Screen.


These mobile devices will not be able to run legacy programs. Operated entirely from Mobile UI touchscreens in the Windows RT environment, they will access apps that will come packaged with the devices. New apps will be available from the Microsoft Store.