Windows 8 Developer Preview – First Impressions

I don’t think this site could be considered Windows-centric by any means. The majority of articles I post tend to lean heavy on Linux with a smidgen of Mac OS X thrown in for good measure to stir the pot. However, I do run into it on a daily basis, being a network administrator. Back in 2006 I think just about everyone gasped and braced for impact when Vista was released, and again breathed a sigh of relief once Windows 7 came out to replace it. I don’t usually speak highly of Windows, as many of my friends will attest, but I do like a lot about Windows 7 compared to previous versions.

Prepare to gasp again and brace for impact with Windows 8. Keep in mind this is all my opinion. I’ll say that again: this is all my opinion.

It'd probably look better if I had two monitors...

It seems like this developer build is very much centered around Windows 8 being a touch-centric interface. Clearly Microsoft hasn’t been a huge player in the tablet market, especially after HP publicly dumped Windows 7 for the tablet in favor of WebOS (though we’ve seen how well that went for them). It looks like they’re hoping to change this in Windows 8, but I feel like they’re going overboard. It seems like everything is now big and fat-finger friendly, meant for being poked and prodded at. That’s all well and good when you’re actually on a touch device, but inside the virtual machine I was using, it felt clunky. The same with the Start menu, which apparently is now the Start panel, with it’s very Windows Mobile 7-esque tile system for your applications. While it’s a bit visually impressive, the novelty wore off for me after about the third time in the menu. There’s too much going on with all of the neon and pastel colors, the RSS updates, the stocks. When I’m on a mission to find an application, it gets very distracting. But I can hear you now…

“That’s what the search menu is for.”

True, but most people I interact with don’t even know how useful that is in Windows 7, so I can’t imagine they’ll even bat an eye at it in Windows 8. Additionally, some people may like the tile-based interface, especially those who use the Windows Mobile 7 platform. However, I’m not one of them and I really don’t like that out-of-the-box. I’d rather have a standard Start menu; you can always give me the option to turn this cool stuff on, instead of making me hunt for where to turn it off.

Another thing that I found confusing was the initial “Hey, do you want to log in with your LiveID?” box. I couldn’t figure out if they just wanted me to do that for the Developer Preview for feedback, or if that’s some new fancy way of logging in to your actual desktop. Either way, I don’t have one, and it was kind of confusing (or at least not straightforward) to figure out how to bypass it.

One other aspect that I wasn’t particularly a fan of, was the full-screen “Hey, this is the app you are loading.” windows. I just clicked it… I know what I’m loading. I don’t need a full-screen window alerting me that the thing I just clicked is what I clicked, and I should prepare for it. And while I do have my big mouth open complaining about this, I really can’t come up with a better way of rolling into a new full-screen application that is any more elegant. The Desktop as we know it now just seems to be another application relegated to running “legacy” applications, so snapping back to that for a few instants seems moot. Also, snapping back to the application you were just on, only to have it flip to the new application moments later would get annoying. However, this also doesn’t seem to be the right way to do it. So, I’m kind of torn on that one.

Log on with your LiveID.

Welcome to City 17... it's safer here. This window needs reworded.

In case you didn't know, this is Remote Desktop.

So far, at least, it seems that Windows 8 is just Windows 7 Redux with a Tablet Personality and some re-designed Windows. But the radical interface design changes it’s bringing with it may leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths. One of the hallmarks of Windows starting in Windows 95 was that the Start menu worked relatively the same in each major release, bringing small but sure improvements and enhancements. This is major 90-degree turn that I think is a knee-jerk reaction to the loss that Microsoft is suffering in the phone and tablet market. With Apple devices becoming more and more domesticated at every turn and Android growing out of control in the smartphone world, one has to ask themselves if Windows really has any relevance anymore, if we’re in this so-called post-PC era? If not, will they be able to survive? As a company that sells server-based products and entertainment devices, sure. But as a desktop PC vendor? Only time will tell I suppose.

 

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