Windows 8 Preview: A Review

Posted on

While I am an Apple user, and love my Apple products, I love to work with new concepts and new ideas.  That's why I was excited to see that the Windows 8 Developer Preview was available for testing. I downloaded it, and once some classes were done and out of the way I installed it into Virtual Box to give it a try. First of, let me say that I'm a big supporter of Tablets.  I have an iPad, love what Android is doing, and was really impressed with the HP TouchPad (and sad to see it go).  Tablets fulfill most of your average user's computing needs, in my opinion, as you can create documents, use the web, and interface with your Social Media (oh, and play games too).  Most users do not need anything more, so talk about horse power, processor speed, RAM, storage, etc. is no longer the stick by which your computing needs are being measured.  Those that do need more, those that use Adobe's Creative Suite, or perhaps do video production, will still need a standard desktop, but most of us will not. That being said, Microsoft seems to have thrown it's lot in with the tablet.  The interface screams touch screen, and I found myself more interested in getting the OS working on a tablet than working with it on a desktop environment.  I found it difficult to imagine using a standard keyboard and mouse configuration with this OS.  So how did the experience go?  Not well.  I couldn't get any of the Metro applications to load with the exception of the Control Panel.  And once in, I couldn't get out again.  If I loaded it to the Desktop, then it worked great and everything was as expected with the one application available: Internet Explorer 10.  It worked as expected, so that was nice.  Now, I'm not blaming the problems with the OS on the OS, but rather on (most likely) the use of Virtual Box as the virtual machine.  I'm sure if I installed the OS on a desktop directly it would respond better.  At least I would hope so.  But, I don't think I would ever want to install the OS on a desktop, because it looks like it would only be at home on a tablet.  So I found myself looking for a cheap tablet that I could drop the OS on, if only because it would feel more natural. You would think that you could drag the Start window back and forth, as it has a very touch-based look to it.  And I'm sure you can with a tablet, but with a mouse you need to drag the slide bar at the bottom to get to other apps.  Or you can use your arrow keys to navigate through the apps, and that's a good thing.  But I really wanted to be able to drag the window, because it begs to be dragged.  Perhaps that's a UI feature that will be coming in the final product.  I would hope it would come in the next Beta release. The start page was, well, busy.  I'm the type that likes my desktop as uncluttered as possible, and having my start window absorb the entire screen is, well, a little annoying.  That being said, it's just a quick click into a Metro application and you are absorbed in the task of the day.  You don't have other windows that are taking up space, which is really nice for productivity (less distraction).  That I like, as I use it with my Mac OS X Lion install.  But when a window is open, you don't have any way to close it, or close the application you are in (that I could see), unless the application was on the standard desktop.  I assume this will not be an issue, as either Windows 8 will suspend the application or close it when it's not in use (remains to be seen).  It would also be nice to have something like Folders on iOS for your apps, so you don't have to scroll as much back and forth to find the app you need. So, in the end, I have mixed feelings about Windows 8.  I really want to test it on a tablet, and would welcome a developer tablet from Microsoft (in case anyone is reading), because I see Windows 8 making it big in the Tablet world.  They have a useable UI that, in spite of some problems I saw, is a fresh look at how a tablet should work.  And for desktop users?  It feels like you are being forced into the Tablet world, whether you like it or not.  There may be, eventually, a solution that will return the user to the Windows 7 user interface, but for right now I don't see a compelling reason for a Windows 7 desktop user to upgrade to Windows 8.  At least, at this stage, I would not recommend my labs be upgraded to Windows 8 if that basic start page isn't made optional during initial setup (so it can be turned off while imaging). Have you reviewed Windows 8?  What do you think about it? Do you agree, or disagree?  Why?