I’m going to reserve my judgement over the Windows 8 Consumer Preview (beta) that was released yesterday and probably write this up in a multi-part review with specific articles targeting consumers, enthusiasts, IT pros and businesses spread across Windows8News and our sister site gHacks (for the latter). I know that you’re all itching to hear our first impressions however so I thought I’d write these up here.
I’m writing this from the point of view of an IT pro who spends the vast bulk of my time in Windows creating and generating content. Be this articles here, emails, Word or Excel spreadsheets, graphics or video so I’m a big content creator. It’s fairly obvious then that straight off the bat Windows 8 is going to offer me very little as almost everything I’ll want to do will be on the desktop, and all the advanced features in Windows that I like to use will also not be found in Metro.
Some of this will change over time as great Metro apps come along to give us new and imaginative ways to create and generate content within Microsoft’s new UI, but for right now it’s still the desktop all the way. I wanted to set this out properly before I began as it’s important when offering my first review of the Consumer Preview that I understand where I’m coming from as much as you do.
If you are thinking of installing the CP as your main OS I would be very careful. On my Windows tablet everything works fine but my laptop wasn’t so happy. Here the touch-screen drivers initially didn’t work and after some tweaking only responded to single touch despite reporting multi-touch support. Also when I performed an upgrade over Windows 7 as a test many things in the Windows 8 desktop crashed when I used them, and even the Metro Calendar wouldn’t start. This is a beta operating system and should be treated as such!
As promised the first thing I looked for was a way within Group Policy or otherwise to set the desktop as the default UI. I’d been privately told by a couple of ‘softies that such a feature would indeed exist, but no matter how deep I looked I couldn’t find it. However references to the ‘classic’ Start Menu still exist in Group Policy so it is only a matter of time before some hacks appear to allow you to set the desktop as the default UI and, no doubt, have a selection of on or off Start Menus.
This is where my initial impressions sit at the moment with my feeling about Windows 8 much the same as I did with XP. With this operating system it was very common for IT pros and enthusiasts to install all manner of patching and hacking tools to modify the UI. With Vista and Windows 7 I didn’t have any at all but I can feel myself going back to this.
For those of you who like Star Trek movies you may have noticed the in-joke in the title to this article, but it’s a common things even some people within Microsoft have said to me. In many ways Microsoft don’t need to be worried too much about this as businesses only upgrade to each alternate version of Windows anyway so they can focus here on getting the consumerization of the OS right.
On this score they’ve succeeded spectacularly. Windows 8 is the very first version of Windows you can properly use if you have no IT skills at all. Sure there’s a learning curve which many people still may not like, but it’s not a difficult one and the recent adoption of alternate operating systems such as Android have proven that this isn’t a barrier for people. For less casual users though much of the power of Windows 7 is now buried or hidden within the OS, and new cool features such as the Hyper-V virtualization tool can be hard to find.
I’ll bring you my full review over the next few days and my fellow editors here will give you theirs from their own perspective as well. Hopefully this will give you a really well-rounded view of the OS, so you can decide if it’s going to be right for you.