Review: Windows 8 Consumer Preview

In less than 24 hours, the Windows 8 Consumers Preview was downloaded over 1 Million times. If you’re reading this, then you’ll land firmly in one of two camps....

Windows 8 Consumer Preview Review

In less than 24 hours, the Windows 8 Consumers Preview was downloaded over 1 Million times. If you’re reading this, then you’ll land firmly in one of two camps. Either you can’t find a spare drive to install and test it for yourself, or you have tried it and want to know my opinion. To be honest, I don’t really care why, just happy you are, strap in, hold on and get ready to digest Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

What’s new?

Charms bar
Used for sharing content to integrated apps, adjusting settings and quick access to devices, the Charms Bar is available by moving your cursor to the top right and dragging down. Alternatively on a touchscreen you can simply swipe in from the right-hand side of the display.

Store
Launching in the consumer preview, those developers have been working hard since the dev preview launch back at build last year. Right now there’s no paid applications in the store, those that do appear as charged (allow for trial), are $0 anyway.

Application discovery is always an issue with App Stores and Windows 8 is no different. User ratings, most recent, top free, top purchases and by category are all ways the user can sort apps. What’s not available is a friend or algorithmic-recommended list specific to the current logged in user.

Customizable UI
Apparently you didn’t all like the green background that was locked in the dev preview. The Consumer Preview now allows for wider customisations like a background design, tribal is my favourite.

Picture unlock
You can now select a picture + pattern as an unlock method. This basically works the same way as Android phones unlock, just that you get to choose the pattern entirely rather than being restricted to a grid of 9 points.

Metro vs Desktop

With a number of missing apps (see below) the switching between the two UI’s is something you’ll need to get used to.. for now. While the desktop will be there for the duration of Window 8’s lifetime, everything going well, app developers will write Metro versions and we’ll find ourselves lessening the need to use the traditional desktop. At some point a couple of years from now, you may be able to skip on it all together.

The removal of the start button from the Desktop taskbar was a great move, it removes the confusion around what is the start screen and lessens the appearance of Metro being a skin sitting on top, instead the Metro home screen is clearly your starting point now.

The two versions of IE10 is something I struggled with. While the Metro-version is cleaner with basically no visible UI, I know that it doesn’t support plugins. Given a lot of the sites I visit daily still use Flash and Silverlight, I found that I jumped straight to the desktop version to get the browsing done.

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Best Apps?

Windows 8 comes with a number of Metro-style applications built-in. The way to add to these is to visit the brand new Windows Store and purchase (all for free right now) or download. The day of the Consumer Preview launch there were 72 applications available, since then I’ve received 5 application updates, but haven’t seen any new apps enter the Store.

With that, the best apps to check out in Windows 8 are as follows:

  • Cook Book – Recipes with integrated reviews
  • MSNBC – News with pinning per category
  • Vimeo – Great way to discover new video
  • slapDASH Podcasts – Nifty way to watch or listen to podcasts, no Subscribe feature though
  • Evernote – would you expect anything less?

Missing Apps..

It has been very surprising to see so many A-list apps missing from the launch of the very public consumer preview. There are none of the A-list social media apps. No Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, or YouTube. No social news apps like Digg or Reddit. Of course the biggest omission is Microsoft Office 15.

Security

In a fundamental change for Windows, virus protection is now built-in. While 3rd party security vendors are likely on the phone to the lawyers, there’s no denying this is a good idea. Installing an alternative anti-virus is absolutely still possible, it means that out of the box, Windows 8 machines won’t be a series of uneaten brains waiting for zombies.

Security Essentials has now merged with and takes on the name of Windows Defender. It’s the same interface, with the addition of the squared off corners applied to all Windows 8 desktop UI.

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Aussie limitations

Unfortunately not all is wonderful in the land of Windows 8. There’s a geo-lock on some core applications like Video, Music and Xbox Companion. Really not sure of the need to geo-limit these applications, unfortunately we’re stuck with it for now.

Windows 8 Tips

After using the Consumer Preview for a while, there’s some handy tips I’ve picked up, so its time to share.

  • When using Dual-screen monitors, you can set a different background for each.
  • When installing using Bootcamp on the Mac, be sure to have a drivers disc handy
  • Right-click is required – there’s multiple times where I thought an Metro-app didn’t do basic things, however the feature was available using right click, not sure how this is dealt with on a touchscreen.
  • Go into settings and turn on App notifications on Lock Screen, it’s off by default

Overall

Windows 8 is a bold, dramatic shift from any previous version of Windows. Change is hard at the best of times, but asking developers to rewrite applications as Metro apps will be a long hard pill to swallow. The opportunity of course is the Store that powers distribution of Windows apps.

Alleviating the distribution and to some degree the marketing and publicity of an application is a big win for developers, something they should thank Apple for. The 70/30 split is in effect until the app surpasses $25k, then Microsoft drops their share back to 20%.

As a user it is taking some time to establish the muscle memory to guide fingertips to the new shortcuts and behaviors. Only time will tell if main stream adoption will prefer the new design, personally I’m cautiously optimistic that Windows 8 will be more like received more like Windows 95 than Windows Vista.

If you haven’t already, download Windows 8 Consumer Preview and try it out, there’s some interesting ideas contained within. This will be the next version of Windows, so while it will change slightly through release candidate, any experience you get now will serve you well in the future.

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MicrosoftReviewsWindows 8

This post is authored by techAU staffers. Used rarely and sparingly when the source decided to keep their identity secret, or a guest author who isn't seeking credit.