Windows 8, Microsoft’s next iteration of it’s vulnerable Windows operating system, is due out later this year, with a release ‘preview’ due up in the next couple of weeks. After a ‘developer preview’ and a subsequent ‘consumer preview’, the operating system has garnered a fair amount of praise and criticism.
Some of the criticism is warranted, others…well, not so much. For example, the lack of a start button seems to really bother some and is the number one complaint, followed closely by Metro’s seemingly unfriendliness for mouse and keyboard. These are more personal preference, in my opinion, than short comings of the operating system. Microsoft is attempting to re-invent Windows and they have a desire to just break with the past and killing the start button is just one way to do so.
Another way, as announced recently, is to ditch much of the eye candy they introduced with Vista. In fact, in a blog post, Microsoft proclaimed that Aero (the fancy special effects for window presentation such as see through borders) is tacky and that they are getting rid of it. Now, MY preference would be to keep it as it made that rather staid and plain Windows desktop look a bit more attractive. So, Microsoft is killing off many of the things that made Windows, well, Windows. Some of the other things that are getting removed include:
- DVD Movie playback – you will need a third party solution for this
- Windows Media Center – it will still be available, but will cost money and you MUST be running Windows 8 Professional (just like in the XP Media Center days)
- Blue Screen of Death (replaced by a uninformative frowny face and friendlier message)
- Start Menu and Start Button (similar functionality available via the start screen and a hotspot in the lower left corner of the screen)
- Previous Versions replaced with File History
- Overlapping, multiple windows in Metro (there is a snap feature that lets you see two apps at once)
- Flip 3D appears to be gone. Alt-Tab still there.
- Traditional menus in many desktop apps (like Explorer) replaced with the ribbon UI
The biggest criticism that actually makes sense is the stark contrast between the Metro and Windows desktop interfaces. Microsoft has done little to ease that while many third parties have designed very attractive themes that follow the Metro look and feel and make the desktop feel like it is part of Windows 8. However, I get why Microsoft has not done so much, they really are trying to kill traditional Windows.
Negatives aside, there is much to like about Windows 8. Metro presents a whole new interface (that dates back to the Zune and Windows Media Center) that is attractive, clean and does not rely on gee-whiz effects to work. Yes, I am contradicting myself here: I LOVE Metro’s clean look yet LOVE Aero Glass. I think they both can co-exist, but, if Microsoft really does not want Metro, fine. I’m sure the fine folks at StarDock already have an Aero Glass mechanism in the works for Windows 8.
One really nice thing about the new operating system is its speed. Boy, is it fast. Start up is very quick, even on the Celeron based computer that I am using to write this post. Not only is it fast, it’s memory requirement is pretty conservative: this machine has 2gb of ram and performance is very snappy, unlike it was with Vista or even Windows 7 (which is still my favorite version of Windows.)
The lack of a touchscreen, for me, in no way hinders my ability to use Metro applications. I find the mouse and keyboard to work very well. Yes, it took some getting used to, but it just seems like second nature now. I do find myself wanting to reach up and touch the screen (no, not out of disgust) and move those tiles. It is going to be great with a touch screen, but is great with mouse and keyboard too.
Over the next few weeks, we should learn about what will be in the final shipping version. The release candidate is due to be unleashed the first week of June, so we should have a good idea of what is to come. Stay tuned for more.