I have to give a series of talks in the coming months to IT Pros around the UK on Windows 8, and it’s not going to be easy given the limited release we’ve seen with the Developer Preview. This version of Windows 8, which is still only an Alpha, is set to change substantially by the time the official beta is released later this year (January 2012 at the very latest).
The reason being that Microsoft needed to get developers on board writing new Metro apps for the platform. They must have a critical mass of apps available by the time Windows 8 launches, and will probably want to open the store well ahead of the official launch so that testers and reviewers can get a good feel for the ‘final’ product ahead of this time. From my own perspective I certainly hope this is the case as I have my own Microsoft Press Windows 8 book needing to be distributed to bookstores by the time the new operating system hits its RTM (Release to Manufacturing) phase. They also had to have this build ready for their developer conference.
So what do we currently know about the beta and how Windows 8 will change in the coming months?
We do know that some of the interface functionality in Metro, especially with how users with mice will interact with the interface. As such, some of the functionality, including features shown off during the keynote address, aren’t in the developer preview. There is clearly much to be added to Metro including a way to kill and close running apps directly without having to drop to the desktop Task manager.
It’s also become clear that there will definitely be a way to use the traditional desktop as the default interface. This may just be selectable through group policy though if Microsoft are sensible they will either include a switch setting in the Control Panel, have the desktop as the default interface on screens with higher resolutions (and therefore bigger diameters) or in some of the business-focused editions such as Professional and Enterprise.
There is also work to be done on the multi-monitor setup where Metro currently exists on a single screen while the traditional desktop sits next to it on a second screen looking odd.
This is going back into Windows 8, Microsoft say but wasn’t ready in time for the Developer Preview. We can fully expect this to get a very significant interface overhaul to make it look and operate much more like the next generation Xbox interface, which is also based on Metro.
Other OS Aspects
There were a great many other aspects of Windows 8 that Microsoft said just weren’t available at the time of the BUILD conference. These include the sharing options for network and other devices which were touted during the keynote but missing from the Developer Preview and the Hyper-V virtualisation system, which is hidden in the developer preview but may get further enhancements before the beta to enable it to be used by people who don’t have IT Pro experience.
There’s still no word yet on when the official beta will be released though personally I am expecting it around November, certainly before Christmas 2011. If Microsoft are to get WIndows 8 on sale in time for the back to school/college period next September this will be essential.