Microsoft recently announced availability of the consumer preview version of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system—it’s been several days since I’ve been taking it for a spin and the experience has been interesting indeed.
The primary driver behind the Windows 8 experience is its new ‘Metro’ interface—already popular on current generation Windows phones. This new interface consists of a start screen populated with various applications represented by ‘tiles’. These tiles can dynamically display real-time information such as Twitter updates, photographs from your Facebook friends, news from your favourite websites and more.
Information on these tiles can be configured and the tiles themselves can be moved around the screen for a custom layout. Depending on the device Windows 8 is running on, you can either tap-and-swipe (for touchscreens), or click and drag (for keyboards and mice.) The corners and the edges of the screen now have special importance—flick your finger in from the left edge and cycle through a list of running applications, grab the title bar of an application and flick it to the bottom to close it, move the mouse pointer to the upper left edge of the screen and a list of running applications pop out the side. A new feature called ‘Charms’ delivers quick access to common tasks depending on the application being used. For example, you can quickly share an online article via email or import images from a connected camera.
Though this interface introduces several new concepts, it is well thought out and quickly becomes intuitive.
Windows 8 seamlessly integrates several online services: From its own SkyDrive cloud storage to other services like Flickr, Facebook, Linkedin and more. So you could start writing a document on a desktop, sign in to Windows 8 on your tablet and take up where you left off. Windows 8 is also designed to run on a variety of devices ranging from tablets all the way to high-end computers.
There are a few downsides though. For example, there is no easy way to close an application—Windows 8 takes care of this innately. Then there’s no Start button or Start Menu: Access to all programs is completely via the Metro-style Start screen. Finally, most applications now run in full screen mode so applications like your browser fill the entire screen, with toolbars and address fields only appearing when needed. This looks great in most instances but isn’t always useful, like when you want to run two applications side by side for comparing or reviewing.
Being as this is a preview version of the operating system, I’m hoping these niggling shortcomings are addressed before it finally goes to market. But based on what I’ve seen, Windows 8 certainly holds plenty of promise and I have high hopes for the future of my desktop.
(This story appears in the 13 April, 2012 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)