Windows 8 beta was released on Tuesday at the MWC in Barcelona and since then, one million users have downloaded the OS.
On Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress, Microsoft announced that it was releasing its newest operating system, Windows 8, as a beta to the public. Microsoft calls the beta the Consumer Preview. Yesterday the official Windows 8 Twitter account announced that one million users downloaded the preview. If you’re hesitant to build a virtual machine or dedicate another hard drive to testing out the new OS, here’s a preview . . . of the preview!
Late last year the Developer Preview of the operating system was released and since then, announced Microsoft Windows lead Steven Sinofsky, the team in charge of the OS build made over 100,000 code changes based on developer feedback and usability testing. The biggest difference in Windows 8 from previous Windows iterations is the user interface, which is called Metro-styling. It features bold colors and apps accessible via large square buttons that occupy the majority of your screen and seamlessly take you to what on any other Windows OS would be referred to as the next “folder” or “window.”
The style has been introduced on the Windows Phone platform for some time, and that’s the ultimate goal for Microsoft: make a seamless user experience for all Windows users on all Windows devices. Tablets, phones, or desktops, Microsoft wants Metro-styling to be the anchor to its users’ experiences.
One of the main concerns for desktop users is that the Metro-styling is fairly touch-screen centric. However, at the congress in Barcelona, the new UI was also demoed on a laptop, showing that the Metro-styling still works for a standard mouse and keyboard. While mouse gestures work to replace swipe functionality, it’s not as responsive. In lieu of a touch screen, Windows 8 has four corners (four designated spots on any screen used for mouse control) that bring up control “charms.” All of that being said, for Windows 8 desktops the standard taskbar, icon, and background display that we know and love is still accessible in certain views.
One big change to the back end of the latest iteration of Windows family of operating systems is that it can run on ARM processors. ARM processors are the processors used in mobile devices, so again we see Microsoft moving towards a seamless interaction for users between all Windows devices, mobile or not.
Sinofsky assured viewers at the MWC that very technical users and even first-time computer users could find the experience they want from Windows 8. He described new apps for the operating system as being able to work together. Where one app on one level might be all an entry-level computer user needs, more feature can be added via another, more advanced app for more advanced computer users.
Surprisingly, the Microsoft Windows team has been working on 8 since before 7 was even released. One Microsoft employee explains that they all walked around with cardboard cutouts of tablets to envision what they would want a perfect mobile OS to be able to do.
Part of the seamless user experience includes gaming and the Xbox. Windows 8 has an integrated games app that displays a user’s Xbox Live account information such as the user’s avatar, game achievements, and player interactions (like messages, invites, and what other friends are doing on their gaming consoles). In addition to Xbox Live, a casual games center app is available to download.
Furthermore, if you love applications on Windows 7 and hate to leave them behind, Microsoft is positive that all Windows 7 apps will work on Windows 8. Now says the company, they’ll just work better. Another app that got the in-depth integration treatment for the operating system is Microsoft’s cloud storage product, SkyDrive. And, if none of these apps pique your interest, the app store is only a mouse click away.
Regardless of whether you like what you see from Windows 8 right now, it’s certainly a step in the right direction to unify everything for customers using your products. Microsoft is taking the right leaf out of Apple’s book on this one. Speaking of which, if you’re interested in reading more about Apple’s latest operating system release, check out the blog post “Apple Unveils Developer Preview of Mountain Lion OS.”