A Quick Tour of Windows 8 Beta

Microsoft are well known for their Windows product line which is popularly known to be a desktop/laptop operating system. The people at Redmond have been working really hard on getting Windows popular on other devices popular today: smart phones and tablets. They have already gotten into the phone market through the early days of Windows Mobile and now Windows Phone. However, soon Microsoft will enter the tablet market (with a bang!) with their new operating system: Windows 8. The alpha was not that great, however Microsoft made many changes and after its release, Windows 8 Beta (download here) was downloaded more than a million times in a single day!

Windows 8 will power both regular consumer computers and tablets. More of the latter by the looks of it since it was basically made to work really well on a tablet or PCs with touch screens. This new interface is known as Metro and it tries to make interacting with the OS simpler through well sized tiles. For a person not familiar with touch devices, there might be a learning curve involved. It makes no sense to call this new operating system Windows when there aren't any windows!

The famous Start menu is no longer a menu but more of a screen with applications. To run you simply click on it, no more going to Start > Programs > Application. Each application is also colored differently to make it easier to differentiate from others. A hover of the mouse towards the right of the screen brings up what would be the system tray in older versions of Windows which includes: the time, network status, a search tool and settings for the current active interface. They did not get rid of the traditional desktop for those who fancy some traditional Windows computing. One thing is obvious the start menu is not there, fishy… Disabling the Metro UI restores the old Windows look, but what's the point?

Much like other operating systems today (especially the ones on smart phones and tablets) there is a place you go to get apps. Android has the Android Market, Apple has the iTunes Store, Microsoft however, have the Windows Store. You can get games, applications and all sorts of goodies. The bad: for some reason I was unable to install anything from it (I tried a few free apps), either it doesn't work well in a virtual machine, not licensed to my location or something else.

I tried to run a classic from the Xbox Live games section, Solitaire! In its full screen glory. Internet Explorer is also revamped to work as a fullscreen app. Pages are shown in full with no toolbars to mess up the experience, to visit something else, simply right click the screen and the address bar with everything else is back. SkyDrive is finally in an app worth using for once, although it is obvious I haven't been using it for a while…

So how much does all of this cost in terms of CPU, memory and other resources? Let the new task manager help us out:

Verdict: Microsoft has really done a pretty good job with Windows 8, especially after listening to alpha testers' complaints. The new Metro interface I believe will revolutionize user interfaces of the future and I wouldn't be surprised if other OS start imitating. There are still some kinks and issues to be addressed (such as the store not giving me apps!), but hey it's still a beta. Let's hope they deliver another Windows 7 and not Vista ;-)!


Leave a Reply