Windows 8 Consumer Preview Walkthrough

Are you a consumer? Do you like the idea of Windows 8? If you answered “no” to either of those, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog anyways… As the title suggests, Microsoft has released a preview of Windows 8 to the masses [download], and quite frankly, I can’t wait. For those of you that have missed out on all of the Windows 8 news, Windows 8 represents a radical change from the Windows we have become accustom to. I will briefly talk about some of the changes after the break.

Microsoft has almost entirely overhauled its OS. The first and probably most challenging change is that Windows 8 is compatible with both X86 Processors (i.e. Intel) and ARM chipsets, made by companies such as Samsung, NVidia, and TI. This move to allow for ARM chips signifies Microsoft is doubling down on its plans for tablet supremacy. Windows 8 will follow in line with Microsofts push to have Windows everywhere, this means that Windows 8 will not only be for that wonderfully awful employer supplied Dell Tower, but also for the onslaught of slates from HP, Samsung, and the rest of the PC makers. Windows on a tablet will no longer be a confusing replication of the windows desktop that you must tap instead of click, Windows will now be a touchable, tiled based OS, with Metro cues from Windows Phone.

As seen above, The start menu is no longer so utilitarian, the new start bar has pages of tiles that you swipe in-between, apps launch with a tap (or click), and there are even “Live-Tiles” that shows a small amount of information in the apps tile, which will update live. Windows 8 also adds a slew of multitouch features, which is a much needed addition to the platform. The all too familiar start button has been completely removed replaced by tapping (or hovering over) the screen in the bottom left will open up what Microsoft calls the Charms Bar. This bar shows a preview of each open app and also gives you access to the start menu seen above. Common actions have been placed by popovers activated by hovering over various portions of the screen. For example, to get to the desktop while in an app hover over the top left corner of the screen and you’ll be presented with a small tile that shows the desktop, simply click and you will be brought back to the desktop. Windows 8 also introduces a feature that I have already fallen in love with, the ability to create a user account using your windows live account, for me this is just my Microsoft account associated with Gmail. I have previously used this address on a couple of Windows Phone 7 devices, and it really sped up the whole installation process by pre-filling things like email and my calendar.

Even though this is a fairly large change from Windows 7, I only have one major annoyance. When I am in the start menu, it is painful to look through all of my programs, now I am not sure if this is due to the fact that I am currently running it as a VM in parallels, or if this is how Windows will actually handle this situation. The picture above showcases exactly how many programs I have. This list of programs is excessive, I know, and there is use simply no great way to look though the apps quickly. A scroll wheel on my mouse alleviates the issue, but there has to be a better way.

Overall Windows 8 looks and feels different. This in my opinion is exactly what Microsoft needed to do. Computing is evolving, it is not always going to be how it was in the days of XP. Computing is mobile, computing is becoming touch-based, and computing is becoming more social . And on that note, I feel with Live-Tiles, Microsoft has made their most social OS so far. As always, keep checking back and follow t3chniq’s coverage of the evolution of Windows.