This article was published 12 years ago
Reviews

Windows 8 customer preview

Windows 8 Metro preview build
A preview build of Windows 8 on a tablet. – Image credit: Gregory Schultz / OpenBayou

While Microsoft would like to remind everyone that this is a beta version of the operating system, Windows 8 has a few minor fixes that can be easily fixed. The real question is will a touch-screen tablet-based operating system work in the dominant desktop environment.

Upon first look, Windows 8 has the same path as Windows ME and Vista: the look and feel of Windows Mobile Phone 7, the removal of the start button, the need to get into the tablet market because a competitor (Apple) has a huge head start = rush development, one design for touchscreen and the desktop – just to name a few.

After spending a few days with the customer beta, Windows 8 has some minor items that needs to be fixed and it has speed improvements – especially when booting up. But forcing desktop users to use an operating system that was designed for a touch-screen is a huge disadvantage that many users will angrily complain – like they did during Windows ME and Vista -and will stick to their current version of Windows.

Boot Process

Windows 8 preview build
Windows 8 booting up – Image credit: Gregory Schultz / OpenBayou

Windows 8 customer preview was tested on two machines: one on a virtual machine on a MacBook Pro and the second on Fujutsu Stylistic ST5112 tablet PC. The specs for the MacBook pro:

  • 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7
  • 6GB memory
  • 750GB 7200 RPM hard drive
  • 64-bit OS

The specs for the Fujitsu tablet PC:

  • 1.2 GHz Core Duo
  • 2GB memory
  • 80GB 5400 RPM hard drive

The time is calculated by running a stop watch. The time starts when the BIOS screen disappears and ends when the login screen appears. The virtual Windows 8 PC took 25.1 seconds to boot. On the Fujitsu tablet PC, it took 35.6 seconds to boot, of which a blank screen occurred for 15.8 seconds after the Windows 8 fish-made-in-MS-paint boot screen disappeared and the login screen appeared. This did not occurred on virtual PC so the problem might be older hardware or trying to get an IP address from the wireless router.

At first I thought this was impressive, 35 second boot time on older hardware but when compared that start time to my desktop running Windows 7 with 2.2Ghz Core 2 Duo with 6GB memory and a 500GB 7,200 RPM hard drive, it blew it out of the water with a boot time of 25.4 seconds. While it does sound disappointing that another desktop with slightly newer but still antiquated hardware, the first service pack should remove those 15.8 seconds from boot to login.

Metro interface

Windows 8 Metro tablet start screen
Windows 8 start screen – Image credit: Gregory Schultz / OpenBayou

With every Operating System Microsoft has ever released, it had a major selling point to get people to buy it: Windows 1 introduced a graphical interface, 95 brought us plug-and-prey play, XP introduced the world to spyware and the main point for 7 was that it wasn’t Vista. The major point for 8 is the Metro interface that has an app store and combines the features of Windows Live, the Zune marketplace and XBOX live and presents them for the desktop.

This is Microsoft’s attempt to put the app ecosphere on the desktop. This also replaces the start panel from previous versions of Windows.

While the app store is minuscule compared to Apple’s App store, it does feature apps from USA Today, Vimeo, Photobucket, WordPress, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times, AccuWeather and Evernote. Missing are popular sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, Netflix and Google. Whether iTunes will join the app store remains is up to Apple (and I’m betting no).

A negative desktop

This is the point where we shift from the positive to the negative side of Windows 8. While the Metro interface is nice, it was really designed for a tablet and will annoy desktop users to the point that staying with XP, Vista or 7 will be better than 8. First item users will notice is a feature that is used on iOS and Android devices, slide to unlock.

Or in this case, left-click slide to top.

It’s almost as if Microsoft tempting Apple to bring a patent lawsuit against the software company. And why did the fine folks at Microsoft decided that since Apple and Google have slide to unlock screens that it would be a good idea to use that on the desktop.

Cause it works really well to use a mouse and drag the screen to unlock your computer.

Maybe the lock screen should have been a photo of all the programmers on the Windows 8 team flipping the middle finger to Apple.

But perhaps the biggest and most annoying feature on Windows 8, the removal of the start button.

The start button is still here, it’s just hidden. And to access it, you have to move the mouse button to the bottom left-hand corner to bring up the start panel. And you have to click on the start button just right, otherwise Internet Explorer will start.

Why, Microsoft!

Why did you remove the start button!?!

Windows 8 start button
Windows 8 start button was removed and replaced with a start screen. – Image credit: Gregory Schultz / OpenBayou

Not only was this a big inconvenience for me on the Windows 8 emulation – because the Apple menu bar appears along the start panel – but I could not get the start panel to appear on the Fujitsu tablet PC using a stylus. I had to attach a keyboard to the tablet PC in order to access the start panel and to close out metro apps as well.

While the start button is gone, you can still access installed programs on the metro interface.

This is probably the biggest negative of Windows 8, not because it’s hard to access the start button but the power management is moved to another hidden panel on the right side of the screen.

That too is also difficult to bring up!

To shut down, restart or put into sleep mode (besides actually pushing the power button), you have to move your cursor to the right side and eventually the right-side panel will emerge. Click the settings button, then the power button and then shut down, restart or sleep.

Conclusion

Windows 8 login screen
Windows 8 login screen – Image credit: Gregory Schultz / OpenBayou

The new metro is beautifully designed and the cross platform synchronizing of the desktop, phone, mobile services and gaming console is an much needed and welcome service. Unfortunately, Windows 8 was designed for a tablet world that Microsoft is just entering and majority of users are still desktop/notebook systems. While we are witnessing a shift from desktop/notebooks to mobile, why Microsoft decided to use one theme for both tablets and desktops baffles me.

Windows 8 should be seen as the next operating system for the shifting world to tablets but the masses will greet OS 8 as another version of Windows Millennium Edition and Vista.