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Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour

Take a closer look at Microsoft's radically revamped Windows 8 OS, out now in a consumer preview version. Here's the lowdown on features, apps, hardware, and more.
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Microsoft unveiled the consumer preview of its Windows 8 operating system on Wednesday from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Microsoft has made more than 100,000 changes to the OS since its September developer preview release, according to Windows president Steve Sinofsky.

Windows 8, which likely won't be available as a shipping product for some time, marks an aggressive turn for Microsoft. The completely revamped OS borrows heavily from the Windows Phone 7 user experience, with the Metro-style interface. Just as important, it brings together many types of user input--from touch to keyboard to mouse. This, along with Apple's continued moves with its OS (Lion, and now Mountain Lion), paint a future that blends the worlds of phone, tablet, and PC, at least from a user interface point of view.

Windows 8 will ship on x86 and ARM-based systems, and Sinofsky said that all hardware platform development, which includes tight partnerships, is on track and on equal footing.

Microsoft unveiled nice little treats, like showing off Windows 8 running on a variety of devices, from tablets to ultrabooks to self-contained PC displays, and even a couple of concept devices, like an 82-inch monitor made of optically-bonded Gorilla Glass with subpixel depth. Michael Angiulo, corporate VP of Microsoft Windows planning and ecosystem, said that using this feels like you're actually moving each Windows tile by hand; he even hinted that this could become the next-generation TV experience. Angiulo also showed a cube-shaped, AMD-built concept PC, about the size of his hand, and demonstrated how it could drive two large monitors, splitting apps between them.

In other words, Angiulo wanted to show off a range of hardware partners, from system-on-a-chip companies like nVidia, TI, Qualcomm, and even Intel, to device manufacturers like Samsung, to Ultrabook makers like HP, Dell, and Lenovo. Angiulo showed off the Lenovo Yoga, which flips from Ultrabook to a more tablet-like mode. Angiulo, and other Microsoft executives (Windows program management VP Julie Larson and Windows web services VP Antoine Leblond), each showed off the different user input options (gesture, mouse, keyboard) on a variety of different hardware.

All of this hardware is important, of course, but so too are developers. Microsoft made a big deal of swiping through screens full of apps in almost every demo, just to showcase the breadth of apps so far. The company hosted an app contest and announced its eight big winners.

[ See our complete Mobile World Congress 2012 coverage, live from the mobile industry's hottest event. ]

So the hardware players are on board, the apps are in the works, now it's time to get end users. The company is making the consumer preview available for download, and this includes all of the apps in the Windows app store. Sinofsky said Microsoft would unveil the enterprise preview at CeBIT next week in Hanover, Germany, including a few more features that help enterprise IT manage Windows 8. He did demonstrate one feature, called Windows To Go, where an entire system image goes onto a USB drive and can be used to gain access to profile information and apps on any other machine.

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User Rank: Moderator
4/9/2012 | 9:09:41 PM
re: Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour
There are some great things in the new Windows 8. The easy-to-program WinRT (metro) coupled with the AppStore is going to be a real winner I think. It's not as good for big desktop displays but is a great opportunity for indy developers. I mean, look at the stock market app on page 18, would anyone with a desktop really use that full-screen busy picture and the one line of stocks at the bottom? I don't even think I would use that on a pad, Hopefully developers will create alternatives that have less eye-straining backgrounds and more information per page.

The review does gloss over some issues however, such as page 5 where it states "you can resize the windows and move them around" except with the new apps you can't. You get full-screen or 320pixel edge, thats all. Only old desktop apps can be resized.

Also, the "it just works" mantra sounds good until you realize there aren't any tools for figuring out what to do if it doesn't. On page 7 the share to Wordpress feature looks cool, but if something goes wrong there are no tools to use to debug.

Still, I expect Win8 to be a big hit for the tablet/pad universe and I am really anticipating the release so I can dive into the details.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/20/2012 | 6:25:11 PM
re: Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour
Is there a way to unclutter the desktop? It looks like a mess in slide 1 with all those colored rectangles.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/16/2012 | 2:58:49 PM
re: Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour
MS stop referencing Apple. "Just like Apple...", this, "Just like Apple..." that. Enough is enough. Start acting like a leader. As a leader you need to be focused on the most important goal. That your "out of the package", "out of the box", etc. user experience is the best - and demonstrate that! Your position as the leader will follow.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/3/2012 | 5:00:22 PM
re: Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour
To add to "dastopher 1"'s list:
User Experience ( PARC, followed by Apple pioneered the concept, now Microsoft is in the game with Win8)
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2012 | 6:55:08 PM
re: Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour
Live tiles (very different from regular tiles)
In-app search
Skydrive integration
Windows Live integration
Social network integration
Much faster search
Much improved boot-level security
Improved multi-monitor support
Integrated virtual technology (a list all by itself)
Integrated PDF (finally)
Integrated ISO
Better task management
Better power management for when the OS is loaded on to tablets and smaller form factors.

But most importantly, the ability to have new form factors that involve touch. This opens up the industry to a new way of doing computing which other OSes just aren't optimized for (although the could be if time was put into it).

I'm not very familiar with Java Ecliplse, but I'm told that Windows 8 sharing is more uniform and integrated, making it better for the end user.

Just my 2 cents
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2012 | 6:26:32 PM
re: Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour
Can someone help me understand how this is some radical leap in technology? So we have tiles instead of icons. Sharing data between apps has been available in Java Eclipse forever. I just do not see this breaking any new ground? But I am open to other opinions.
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