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Hands-on: Microsoft’s Windows 8 shows steady progress in consumer preview

This feels stable.

That was my first thought as I started utilizing the brand new Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which is making its public debut right now. The Windows staff has clearly been onerous at work, fine-tuning all that code underneath the hood (*8*). It’s zippy and principally secure, and feels a lot nearer to a completed product than that earlier construct did.

Hands-on: Microsoft’s Windows 8 shows steady progress in consumer previewMicrosoft’s Windows executives say the phrases “quick and fluid” sufficient lately to sound as in the event that they’re hawking motor oil, however primarily based on what I’ve skilled on a take a look at machine on mortgage from the corporate, the phrase is just not inaccurate.

Even when they received’t say so explicitly, they’re clearly making good progress towards a 2012 remaining launch of Windows 8 — essentially the most radical change in Microsoft’s flagship PC working system since Windows 95.

The brand new preview is available for download here.

Microsoft is launching the Consumer Preview — the flamboyant new identify for what was once referred to as the beta — in conjunction with the Cellular World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The venue underscores the corporate’s aspirations to make use of this model of Windows to regain floor in tablets, making an attempt to compete extra successfully towards the brand new AAA of the tech world: Apple, Amazon and Android.

In one other nod to Microsoft’s cellular aspirations, the corporate can also be launching a preview of its Windows Retailer for purchasing and downloading apps.

Because the launch of the developer preview, Microsoft has made a major change to the strategy of navigating Windows 8 with keyboard and mouse, eliminating the Begin button on the standard Windows desktop and as an alternative having customers set off menus and navigational cues by pointing the mouse on the corners of the display screen. (Extra particulars and impressions of this characteristic under.)

The default apps loaded onto the Windows 8 Consumer Preview embody Mail, Calendar, Music, SkyDrive, Pictures, Individuals, and Messaging. As rumored, Microsoft is just not utilizing the Zune or Windows Reside manufacturers in this preview.

The music app seems to be significantly good in the immersive Metro model, exhibiting massive pictures of the artists as their songs play.

Xbox figures prominently in the consumer preview, with an Xbox Reside dashboard just like the one on the Xbox 360 console, in addition to a Windows 8 model of the Xbox Companion app for controlling and enjoying content material on an Xbox 360 utilizing the pc.

Primarily based on my “Microsoft ID” login — no, not Windows Reside ID — I used to be in a position to see customized options, reminiscent of my avatar, present up in the Xbox Reside interface on the pc. That stated, the corporate and its companions nonetheless have some work to do to make the Xbox Reside video games and companies which are obtainable on the Xbox 360 additionally playable in Windows 8.

Hands-on: Microsoft’s Windows 8 shows steady progress in consumer previewAs in the developer preview, the standard Windows desktop remains to be accessible in Windows 8, however the laptop boots up by default into a brand new, tablet-friendly Begin display screen on each PCs and tablets. The Begin display screen’s “dwell tiles,” just like these on Windows Cellphone, not solely characterize and launch functions but additionally serve up the newest info and updates from these apps in rotating textual content and graphics.

The obvious change in Windows 8 because the developer preview is the absence of the Begin button in the decrease left nook of the standard Windows desktop.

Sure, as rumored, they’re killing the Begin button. I used to be satisfied I wouldn’t like this alteration, however after utilizing the consumer preview I finished caring.

Microsoft has changed the Begin button with a thumbnail of the Begin display screen that seems when keyboard-and-mouse customers transfer the cursor into the decrease left nook of the scren. They will then click on to go to the brand new Begin display screen or, in one other new trick, transfer the cursor up the sting to activate thumbnails from open functions and navigate to them.

Pill customers will be capable of hit the Begin button in the body of the machine to go to the Begin display screen.

Nonetheless, navigating the default Windows 8 interface — switching amongst applications, pulling up menus, and accessing the pc’s underlying settings — will likely be an adjustment for longtime Windows customers. I’m wondering if the change will hold some customers from shifting to Windows 8 from earlier variations.

Listed here are the methods to recollect in the event you attempt the consumer preview: When you’re utilizing a mouse and keyboard, transfer the cursor to the corners to entry instructions and navigational cues. When you’re utilizing a pill, swipe in from the sides of the display screen together with your finger to entry those self same issues.

Backside line, this continues to really feel like a logical evolution for Windows. Microsoft hasn’t formally introduced a launch date, however at this level it might be a whole shock if it weren’t this yr. And the consumer preview is value downloading and putting in, significantly in the event you can put it on a spare machine.

Hands-on: Microsoft’s Windows 8 shows steady progress in consumer preview

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