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A Preview of (and thoughts about) Windows 8

As a Microsoft partner, we were able to get our hands on a copy of “developer’s preview” of Windows 8 – which is basically an ‘alpha’ version of the program, with no support. We have been running the Windows 7 successor for a few days and are learning a lot about it – and liking what we see. I am testing the 32 bit version on a three year old Fujitsu T2010 tablet PC with a 1.2Ghz dual core CPU, a 120Gb SSD hard drive, and 3Gb of RAM.

Summary Observations:

metroui-screenshot-smallThe default user environment is now the “Metro” interface, similar to the Windows 7 phones. It is built to accomodate touch interfaces, such as tablets, and is quick and responsive. You won’t see a “Start” button, or task bar, etc. All of the apps and functions are shown as “tiles,” which are basically simple boxes that are shortcuts to other apps. One of the tiles is the “Desktop,” which opens up the more traditional Windows desktop with the Start menu, wallpaper, etc. The main change you will see here is that the Start button returns you to the Metro UI.

We will have more feedback as time goes on, but for now, I wanted to provide you a quick “what I like,” and “what I do not like” about Windows 8 – which should be available in late 2012 (more likely 2013). Because the UI is the main change, we distinguish in some places between the new Metro and traditional desktop in our descriptions.

What I like

  • The Metro interface is clean and simple. And although there is some contentious overlap between it and the Desktop, they generally work together. For example; when in the Desktop app, clicking the Start button does not reveal a “start menu,” it returns to the Metro screen. But loading an Windows app at that point is as simple as clicking its tile, or just start typing its name (like “Calc” for calculator), and it will be in a list of apps to click on and run back on the desktop.
  • So far, it has been very stable and fast. Windows 7 is the best OS I have ever used (and I have a Mac Lion system for you Apple fans, as well as used Linux since version 0.37 for you Linux zealots). At this point, Windows 8 is as good or better than Windows 7 in regards to stability and speed.
  • Boot times from shutdown are incredible. It took 6 seconds from the end of BIOS loading to get to the login screen, and about 3 seconds from entering the password to the Metro screen.
  • Application load times are noticeably faster: I loaded PowerPoint for the first time in 1 second, Excel in about 1.5 seconds, and so on. When in an application, it is fast and smooth.

What I do not like

  • When clicking a link in an Outlook email, by default it opens in the Metro version of Internet Explorer, instead of the default I set as the Chrome browser on the desktop. You can change this to desktop, which then uses Chrome. But then if you are in a Metro app and click a link, it opens it in the default desktop browser. I would prefer it stay in its sandbox, and we could set defaults for both environments.
  • The lack of an option to stay in the desktop when I am there: the Start button takes me back to Metro interface. In effect, the Metro interface is the Start menu.
  • Search results do not include items from Outlook, such as email, contacts, etc. Many people use Outlook as a database, so not being able to search it alongside other data sources like files limits its usefulness.
  • The Pen does not work the same way the touch does, so some functionality such as scrolling in the metro interface, etc. does not work with the pen.
  • The Metro UI really requires a touch interface. There are some functions; like the scrolling and accessing the menu on the right side, that are not as easy to use.
  • Some drivers do not load under Windows 8 (no surprise). I tried to install three printers, and only two loaded.

Final Thoughts

I would encourage you to try it out of you get a chance; having spent a week with it being my primary system, I am considering staying with it for a while. If you would like a session to discuss how you can prepare now for this type of technology, feel free to drop me an email or place your feedback below.