If you’ve been waiting to see what a consumer-ready version of Windows 8 would look like, the wait is over. The Windows 8 consumer preview is now available to download, and boy does it bring a break from Windows’ past.
First up, there have been a few US changes since the first developer preview. Like Microsoft has killed off the Start button. when you look at the desktop, there is no more button to press to pull up the Metro view. Instead, there’s a hot corner-like interface where you drag your mouse cursor into the botton left. Then you can click into the metro interface.
Expanding on that design, Microsoft has made it easy to get to a list of previously used apps. Just drag your cursor up along the left edge after activating the hot corner, and there’s your previous apps.
Microsoft has also introduced something that’s like Apple’s Mission Control, which they call Semantic zoom. Since most native Windows 8 apps are going to be running in full screen, Microsoft has made it simple to organize and sort your applicatons with a card-like interface. you can rearrange the apps for easy swiping through, you can rename them, or you could swipe them into the background so that they’re running but not at full steam.
Windows 8 is a heavily gesture-based operating system, meaning that Microsoft is betting that most devices will be based on touch screen. Anything you can do with a mouse you can do with a touch screen, usually quicker and easier.
This version also introduces that Windows App Store, where you’ll be able to get apps that run in the Metro interface. The pickings are pretty slim right now, but then, the store was just released.
All in all, this is shaping up to be an interesting operating system. It’s still very much a love-hate relationship with me, and I don’t agree with every decision they’ve made. But Microsoft has managed to make an operating system that seems compelling and is starkly different in tone to Apple’s iOS and even OS X. I can’t wait to see what the reactions are a few weeks from now. that’s when we’ll find out how well they really designed the next version of Windows.