Redmond, Redmond, Redmond
Microsoft has had an amazing week at MWC stealing much of the limelight on day one together with Nokia and Windows Phone 7.
Yesterday they outdid themselves with the Consumer Preview of Windows 8. Having gone hands on with the earlier Developers Preview and now with this, albeit both as Virtual Machines I can honestly state I’m impressed; not just by the Metro UI which continues to be the best looking UI I have laid eyes on all year but more importantly by the ecosystem that Microsoft is developing. Windows 8 is intended to be the OS for every type of device in the Microsoft arsenal: Touch tablets, conventional PCs and ultimately for Smartphones (so we are led to believe)
In my opinion Windows 8 is going to drive a stake through the hearts of the other Operating Systems out there unless they can find a competitive edge and speech recognition apps isn’t it.
I wrote about Windows 8 here “Too Retro for Metro..” based on the Developers Preview back in October 2011. Yesterday saw the launch of the more polished Consumer Preview.
Above is the setup screen complete with the newly rebranded Windows logo.
Where and How
For those who want to try out this preview then it can be downloaded as either an executable installer or if like me you prefer running it as a Virtual Machine then get the ISO.
I’m running the VM on Oracle’s VirtualBox. I’m a long time VMware fan but they won’t support pre-release versions of an OS and frankly VirtualBox does the job simply and elegantly.
What to Expect?
Setup is about the easiest I have ever experienced for a Windows OS install and the process includes login using a Windows Live account which hooks up nicely to the OS.
However the user is not obligated to use a Microsoft account. Following the login the user is confronted by a beautiful photo with an overlaid clock this is where the touch experience begins. If you have a touch screen then finger slide from bottom to top of the screen to arrive at the Start Screen (this does function with either a mouse or touchpad):
The touch functionality takes some getting used to but the Windows key to return to Start and or Alt-Tab to toggle open apps should be kept in mind when trying to navigate.
The look and feel of the sample apps and the OS are great. On the Desktop you can get to Windows Explorer which has come of age receiving an update in the shape of the Ribbon we know and love from Office. Internet Explorer is IE10 which again has a radical UI upgrade:
The navigation bar in IE10 now resides at the bottom of the browser for starters.
I decided to capture video of my walkthrough and did this with Microsoft Expression Encoder. I didn’t factor that my laptop microphone would capture so much background noise. Apologies folks but here is the video via YouTube:
I have a lot more exploration and testing to do but I stick by my earlier impressions. I have high expectations for Windows 8 itself and as a driving force behind Redmond’s competition. Time for them to seriously consider how they are going to compete.
(For those who have Silverlight support in their browser you can see a Photosynth of some more screengrabs here.