After the Windows 8 Consumer Preview was released this week, it took me a few hours to decide wether or not I wanted to install it on my old HP TouchSmart tm2 that I use daily and bought a while before the original iPad came out. Needless to say I took the plunge after the setup program told me just about everything I had already installed would be compatible.
It turns out Windows 8 is going to be a lot like Windows Phone 7 and that’s probably a good thing. You’ve got full screen “Metro” style apps that have no reminants of application chrome or even operating system controls. You’ve got the gorgeous live tiles that animate with pictures, social network notifications, messages, emails and weather. Everything is very smooth and responsive to the touch.
However there are some big differences. First of all, I was quite content with the Windows 7 touch interface. You touch the buttons and they activate. That’s pretty simple. Now that I’ve been using Windows 8 though, I’m much more impressed. The touch UI is designed to be both ergonomic, highly efficient, and clutter free! The main controls are right next to the bezel where your thumbs would be if you were holding a tablet. Just swipe your thumb along the left side to flip between open apps. Swipe across it and then back to show a list of thumbnails representing open apps that you can easily tap to open the one you’re looking for. Then swiping on the right side with your thumb opens the “charms” for other types of operating-system interactions. It’s really quite nice once you learn how to use it, and that’s really the only issue… there’s nothing on the screen giving you any kind of indication on how to interact with this new user interface.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the speed, usability, and preview apps in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I’m glad that Microsoft went this direction for their new tablet initiative rather than scaling up a mobile operating system like Windows Phone 7. The fact that you can easily jump back into a desktop computer interface in order to run all of your high-end content-creation programs (even though they may not be designed for touch UIs) is fantastic for mobile productivity.
Have you tried the Windows 8 Consumer Preview yet? Are you looking forward to new Windows 8 tablets coming to the market?