Microsoft Windows 8 Consumer Preview Launched
Banking on the popularity of post-PC devices like tablet computers and smartphones, Microsoft has released the official consumer preview of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system in the hopes of generating enough interest for the platform among developers, consumers and enthusiasts.
Microsoft says Windows 8 is is a “reimagined” version of its popular operating system. The OS is designed to work on a wide range of devices, and so it is not like previous iterations of the Window desktop OS that mainly run on desktop and notebook computers.
Perhaps the most striking new feature of Windows 8 is its Start menu. Or, actually the lack of it. Windows 8 starts with a new Start screen, which is reminiscent of the Windows Phone 7 “Metro” tiled user interface. The Start screen features live previews of data and information, such as website feeds, appointments, and messages. The screen is user-customizable, and if used on a touchscreen-capable device, can likewise be manipulated via touch gestures.
Windows 8 supports both touch and traditional keyboard-and-mouse interfaces. Users who are already used to swiping elements, pinching and zooming, and tapping on screen will be comfortable with Windows 8. Of course, this assumes your device supports touch. But perhaps in future, most devices will eventually adapt to a touch-interface, as much as how desktop computers have evolved from predominantly keyboard-based text interfaces to mouse-enabled GUI.
Users will also like the “snap” feature, which conveniently snaps an app to the edge of the screen for easy access later on.
Information Sync, Search and Sharing
Windows 8 makes it easier to manage content, whether searching for content or documents, or sharing these with other people. Just like how Android lets users share content from virtually any app, Windows 8 lets users share content via SkyDrive or even the Mail application. Windows 8’s unified search works like Apple’s Spotlight, which lets users search from the web browser, apps, social networks, and other sources of information from a single interface.
Microsoft is likewise putting an emphasis on cloud computing, which is the trend among both enterprise and consumer markets. Apple may have iCloud, which syncs multimedia, bookmarks, information and other content across devices. Microsoft also relies on the cloud for data synchronization, so that you can continue working even when you switch devices. Services like Hotmail, SkyDrive, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter will work closely with a user’s Microsoft account for seamless integration across devices.
Apps, Apps and More Apps
What’s a computer without apps? Apps are the main driving force of success for computers and mobile devices today. Windows 8 promises extensibility through the Windows Store. Sure, it’s not as big as Apple’s iTunes App Store or even Android Market, but it’s a good start.
Microsoft says the desktop still makes up most of the underpinnings of Windows 8, so the familiar Start interface and desktop is still accessible to those who want it. But Microsoft is willing to take a big risk and plunge into a new world of touch-based interfaces. It’s not that Microsoft is stranger to touchscreens, though. Windows Phone 7 is said to be an elegant operating system, as Microsoft learned from Apple enough to enforce strict control over WP7’s user experience across different brands. But Windows 8 will be meant for a more mainstream audience — computer users around the world.
Windows 7 is considered a solid product, especially after the market and technical failure that was Windows Vista. Will Windows 8 be the revolutionary OS that will make Microsoft the cool choice?
You can check out the Windows 8 preview from preview.windows.com.