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Last Tuesday, Microsoft released the consumer preview for their next operating system, Windows 8. The new operating system is looking to further streamline and connect your Windows devices. Of course, I was all over this and downloaded it. I’d read and seen things here and there, but always told myself to just “wait and try it for yourself.” If Microsoft hadn’t decided to do the public beta for Windows 7, I probably would still be using XP.
Windows 8 is looking to take the operating system in a new direction, and it’s new “Metro” layout takes the start menu and flips it on you with a look and feel that mimics the Windows Phone menu and the Xbox 360 Dashboard. They even recently changed the Windows logo, as you see above. When screenshots of the new start menu were released, I scratched my head and wondered if it was really a smart idea. The start button is sort of the center of the Windows OS, so I was skeptical on whether changing it was a good idea.
The installer took about 5 minutes to download and the installation itself about an hour. The installation give you the option to keep all of your personal files, or if you want to start fresh. It also gives you the option of installing on a separate partition and even the ability to make a bootable Windows 8 flash drive, which was one of Windows’ most requested features for years. The installation was simple, and when it rebooted, it had my set up my network and connect Windows with my Live ID, which I admittedly never use other than to sign into Windows Live Messenger. After it was all set up, I was introduced to the new start menu. I have to tell you, it is very different and takes some getting used to.
The start menu is no longer just a button and popup at the bottom of your desktop, it’s an entirely separate window. To bring it up, drag your mouse to the lower-left corner where the button normally is, and an Aero preview will appear that you click. The nice thing is that the start menu is still able to be customized as you can change the colors, the designs on the start menu’s wallpaper, the icons, and even the size and arrangement of the icons. Your open apps and windows will also be listed on the left side, and bringing those up is as easy as bringing your mouse to the left hand side of the screen.
You may have mentioned that I said “apps,” and yes, Windows 8 is introducing apps much like you would get on your phone. These include games, news, and tools like photo editors. There’s a very nice selection and I had a ton of fun playing games like Flow, Cut the Rope, Train Titans, and you can even play some of your Xbox LIVE Arcade games right there on your PC through Windows 8. Pinball FX 2 and Solitaire are available through the preview if you have the games purchased on your Xbox 360.
Of course though, there are some downsides. Even on a quad-core processor and 4GBs of RAM, Windows 8 seems be a bit on the sluggish side from time to time for me, compared to Windows 7. Even simple applications like Google Chrome, GoldWave, and GIMP seem to take anywhere from an extra 5 to 10 seconds to start up. It’s also hard for me to say whether this will affect PC gaming as my laptop doesn’t have a dedicated GPU. However, I will say that it seemed to play Pinball FX 2 almost perfectly.
So far, the Windows 8 consumer preview has kind of left me wondering whether this version of Windows could possibly end up like Vista, which was panned by consumers and critics alike. Microsoft even had the “Mojave Experiment” which was their ad campaign showing people testing a “new” version of Windows and when they said they liked it, were told it was really Vista. The OS just never really caught on as many of it’s main features would only be usable by people with high-end PCs. Dual-cores and quad-cores were really just starting to break out in the market and hadn’t really become the standard at the time like they are now.
It seems like Microsoft had an idea that seemed really cool on paper, but I have a feeling it could get lost on consumers. It doesn’t really require any extra work, as the start button is still only one click away, it just seems as though not having a centralized start menu could potentially turn people away who are accustomed to it. As for me, I think I will be sticking to Windows 7. Either way though, I’m excited to see where Microsoft decided to take this, and if there will be any big changes with Windows 8 as Microsoft receives consumer feedback.