Microsoft released a "Consumer Preview" of Windows 8 last week, and I thought I'd download it and take a look, as it's the first version of Windows that I've ever had any curiosity about, mainly due to the new Metro UI.
I've only spent a few hours playing around in a fairly aimless manner, so this is by no means a thorough review. In general, I agree with most of the points made in this Orlowski piece at The Register, but this post will cover a few things I found of note.
(Just for background, I'm far from being a Windows aficionado or regular user - whilst I have a desktop, laptop and netbook with Windows 7, those machines spend most of their lives running some form of Linux, whether natively via dual-boot, or in a virtual machine. With regard to the Metro UI, I've never used Windows Phone 7 (I've only ever seen it being used once in the wild), and I really don't like how it it has been implemented in the latest Xbox 360 dashboard update - although most of the problems I have with it are far more to do with how MS have prioritized ads and general media over games, which doesn't have anything do with Metro per se, and would easily be resolved if the dashboard was configurable.)
- I've only tried Win8 in a VirtualBox VM running atop Windows 7. For some reason I'm only able to run it in a limited number of resolutions, none of which are the native resolution of my monitor. Not quite sure whether this is the fault of Win8 or VirtualBox - it's the first time I've used the latter, normally I use VMWare for all my virtualized environments. (In a similar vein, I was unable to get USB memory sticks or external hard drives to be recognized, and I don't know where the fault lies.)
- The login page confuses the hell out of me. It's super-minimal, which isn't a problem, but most of the time when I click the mouse on the login screen, all that happens is that the screen scrolls up and then back down by about half-an-inch. The same happens if I double-click, long-click, middle-click or right-click. Nothing happens if I hit the Windows key (which is used heavily in Win8, see later point). I've just discovered that pressing the Ctrl key, or rotating the mouse wheel, brings up the password prompt - prior to that point I'd just been randomly moving the mouse around and clicking until I triggered some magical gesture.
- MS seem to push you towards using authentication based on Windows Live/Hotmail/Microsoft Live/whatever-they-brand-it-this-week accounts. This isn't necessarily a bad idea, but one thing that I'm not a big fan of is that they suggest that people might want to create a Windows account with the same name as their regular email account. From my experience on a project using Google accounts, where we suggested people might want to create a Google account named "email@example.com" or "firstname.lastname@example.org", this just leads to user confusion, as people mentally associate a particular account with a particular service. (Theoretically the same should apply to stuff like Amazon accounts, but the same issue doesn't really apply for various reasons. Probably something for a different post...)