I finally got a chance to install Windows 8 and take it for a test ride. Having installed the Windows 8 Developer Preview which came out last year, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is much more stable with very few visible bugs.
I followed the excellent instructions provided by lifehacker to boot Windows 8 side by side with Windows 7, which is already running on my laptop. If you are not familiar with partitioning your hard disks, be very careful while trying to dual boot as choosing the incorrect partition can erase your existing installation.
On the Start screen, all the applications are shown in what are called ‘Tiles’. If you are familiar with the Windows Phone interface, it looks much similar.
Desktop is provided as an ‘app’, which takes the user to the much familiar PC interface that most PC users are familiar with. Desktop looks much similar to a Windows 7 screen, but ouch, where is the start button? Pressing the Windows Key on the keyboard takes the user back to the start screen with ‘Tiles’.
At present there are not many apps to boast about in the marketplace, but I expect this situation to change as more and more developers start publishing their apps to the marketplace.
Some applications that have already got some traction in other platforms like ‘Kindle’ and ‘Cut The Rope’ are already in the marketplace.
Corner Quick Menus
From a touch interface, one can slide from side, the top, bottom etc. but doing that with the mouse is not going to be very easy. As per Microsoft, one can move the mouse effortlessly to each corner of the screen and this is where some of the Windows 8 menus pop out from.
Move the mouse to the bottom left corner, the start menu pops out. Click on the start menu brings the user right back to the start screen. Pressing the windows key on the keyboard also has the same effect.
Moving the mouse to the top left corner brings out the application bar with a preview of all the running applications. This is a very quick way to switch between currently running applications. Equivalent keyboard shortcut is Windows Key + Tab.
Windows 8 has implemented something called ‘Windows Charms’, which is a quick menu that is available for all the applications. Move the mouse to the top right corner to access the Charm.
In the charm bar, there are buttons like Share and Search, which each application can utilize accordingly.
Keyboard friendly as it is touch friendly
It is primarily touted for touch interface devices, however almost all the ‘goodness’ of Windows 7 keyboard friendliness have been retained.
Windows 7 users will find many of their favorite shortcut keys working on Windows 8 including the Alt+Tab combination for switching between the applications.
Task Manager is greatly enhanced and now has a sporty user interface.
A great additional feature that has been added is that now it can track CPU, memory and bandwidth usage of applications over a period of time. On mobile devices where internet usage is metered, this can come in handy to find out what applications are eating up the most bandwidth.
Compatibility with existing hardware
The web installer runs a compatibility checker before installing Windows 8 to verify if the existing hardware and software is compatible. Interestingly enough, the only incompatible application that was found on my computer was the ‘Security Essentials’ anti-virus software from none other than Microsoft itself.
I noticed one problem after installing the Windows 8, it was not detecting the NVIDIA graphics card. My laptop has a NVIDIA GeForce 210M. NVIDIA has released the drivers for Windows 8 32-bit and 64-bit, however some laptops like SONY VAIO require to get these drivers directly from SONY instead of NVIDIA. Installing the drivers from NVIDIA was stopping at a point where it suggests to contact the laptop manufacturer to provide the drivers. However, SONY has not released the NVIDIA drivers for their hardware yet. argh!
Considering that most of the underlying stuff in Windows 8 is carried forward from Windows 7, I wanted to try installing the NVIDIA Windows 7 drivers on Windows 8. How bad can it get? The worse case scenario would be for me to re-install Windows 8.
I took the gamble and installed the Windows 7 64-bit NVIDIA drivers provided by SONY and voila! it worked like a charm!
(Install at your own risk)
All in all, it is a bold new endeavor and is certainly fun to use. Even though it looks very promising, it remains to be seen how well the marketplace develops which is a crucial factor in the success of Windows 8 on touch interface devices.