Windows 8 – First impressions

Microsoft have now released a developer preview copy of their next Windows Desktop OS. This is currently named Windows 8 (quell surprise !). The last move to 7 was very favourable as the previous incarnation (Vista) was universally heralded as a failure (a bit unfair in my estimation), so iwas interested to see the new changes.

Since the launch of 7, there has been some major shifts in the IT world, namely the move of all the major players to tablet and touch type devices. This has been led by Apple, but has been hung onto by the likes of Android  and HP (RIP Web OS).

Some players had tried to port 7 to a tablet but as MS themselves said at the time, 7 was not designed for a tablet and therefore would not give the full experience, such as that on an IOS product.

We are told that Windows 8 has been designed from the ground up with touch in mind and the main difference from a user perspective makes this clear with the main interface not being the usual desktop, but the  new look “Metro” UI. This is a collection of panes that represent different applications. As well as being easy to navigate i imagine it makes life very easy for non IT types to find and run their applications. All the favourites are there out of the box, eg settings, IE and Windows explorer, plus some new ones such as a twitter client and a facebook client (Socialite ? really ?). There have been complaints that really only works in a touch environment. I would say that once you are used to it, it’s just as easy on a normal keyboard/mouse interface, but does  feel enhanced using touch. There is also a tile for the normal desktop. This is where the second big change comes in. The start button was introduced with Windows 95, and still exists in 8, but DONT CLICK IT, it takes you back to the Metro UI. This does takes some getting used to. Basically the desktop is only there when you really need it , as you should always use the Metro UI. Any programs you install will be on the Metro UI, and will open the desktop if its needed. I have found a reg fix to change the Start Button functionality back to “normal”, but it will be interesting to see if MS revert it based on customer feedback. I can see a corporate not really wanting the Metro on a normal PC, who will demand the normal Desktop interface.

Most of the other changes are under the bonnet, the key one being speed. Its supposed to be more efficient that Windows 7, and I have to say , on first impressions I’ll buy that. Very snappy.

With two views, Metro and Desktop, comes one of my bugbears. When you run a metro app, you cannot close it, so it all get a bit apple as you switch apps with stuff being in suspended mode in the background. Taking up memory, or more to the point on a tablet, taking up battery. The only way to close fully, is to go back into desktop and open task manager, and kill the process directly. Not the most eloquent of solutions and one easily fixed.

So I’m current running Win 8 on a Acer W501 Tab with 3G and keyboard, and it goes out as a working unit today, so I’ll keep this page updated with any major issues / great success’ I find.

Most of the desktop tools seems the same as they ever were, but for release I would expect updates to Media Centre and the promised out of the box install of Security Essentials. Maybe even on home versions, they should add Security and Live Essentials. They are essential for a reason.

I’m sure more to follow.

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