The next version of Microsoft’s operating system for desktop computing devices (PCs, laptops, tablets), Winodws 8, is almost upon us. Last year Microsoft released an early build to developers to allow them to experiment with new features and ideologies as they gear up to develop for the new platform. Very soon, as early as by the end of February, it will be the turn of ordinary users.
[Update] Microsoft has since sent out official invitations for an event on February 29 at 3pm in Barcelona, which reads “Windows 8 Consumer Preview” as part of Mobile World Congress (MWC).
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview (aka beta) has been rumored to become available within the month and new information seems to have surfaced about this new and radically different version of Windows. Windows 8 if you have not seen the new interface prominently emphasizes the Metro UI, Microsoft’s new preferred design interface for all its operating systems.
It is a whole new Windows with emphasis on bigger icons and images and brighter colours. This will bring Windows in line with Windows Phone, where they debuted the interface, and the XBox which got a dashboard upgrade last year to use a Metro style interface. The Metro UI is the default interface but the traditional Windows Desktop can be enabled by users to enjoy the more familiar Windows 7 styled Windows interface, if preferred.
The new major rumour is in reference to the Start button which has been present in all versions of Windows since it appeared in Windows 95. According to anonymous sources of The Verge, a US based tech website, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview will not include the Start button as we know it and it is rumored it will be replaced by a “hot corner” (think hotspot within an image) and a “thumbnail-like user interface” that offers previews of “where you will navigate to after clicking on the new visual element.”
The good news is that it seems Microsoft has responded to a lot of the complaints cited by users in the Developer Preview, which to be fair at the time of release they stated was going to be very different from the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.
With a final release date tipped for the end of 2012 or early 2013, it will serve users, especially technical and IT managers well to try out the consumer preview and get ready for the change. It is also important not just for the aesthetics but with concepts like Live Tiles, items on the Start Screen (email, social apps, news, weather ) being constantly updated, internet bandwidth for example, becomes an issue for businesses to assess and roll out appropriate policies and measures.
We are also going to do our bit to help get ready by doing a series of articles about what to expect differently in Windows 8. If you do not mind reading first hand, technical details, you can check out the Building Windows 8 blog (by the Windows engineering team) which details most of the new changes or if you are a developer, the Windows Dev Center to get ready.