About a week ago, Microsoft unveiled a prototype of its successor to the Windows 7 operating system (OS). The Windows 8 Consumer Preview edition, which can currently be downloaded and used for free, is a radically new OS that builds upon the new features first seen in Microsoft’s mobile phone operating system, Windows Phone 7.5.
Approximately 3.3GB in size for the 64-bit version, installing the operating system is an easy feat. You can either upgrade your existing Windows 7 installation or install Windows 8 as a separate instance. For the latter to work, you’ll need to download the Consumer Preview in the .iso file format and then burn it onto a DVD.
Installation is lightning-quick, you’ll arrive at the login screen in less than 10 minutes. There are a number of new features in the operating system such as USB 3.0 support, picture passwords and Windows Live ID integration. However, we’ve only looked at some of the biggest changes here.
The Photos app allows for live syncing with external accounts like Flickr, Facebook and SkyDrive. While the consumer preview doesn’t support many features, the interface is smooth and fluid. After signing into your miscellaneous accounts, photos are updated in real-time and displayed in full-screen. The interface is quite akin to that on a tablet or a smartphone.
Having followed the success of application stores like Apple’s Mac App Store and the Android Market, this is Microsoft’s attempt to set up a unified digital distribution platform for downloading Metro-supported apps. Just like the other platforms, apps here can be sorted according to category or price (free/paid). As of now, there are already tons of apps and games available, such as Evernote, Vimeo, Cut The Rope and Wordpress.
First seen in Microsoft’s new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7.5, the Metro user interface does away with the ages-old Start panel. Instead, what you’ll see is a multi-coloured tile-based arrangement of programmes and apps. Metro is unique in that it works well on desktops with keyboards and mice, laptops, and touchscreen based-phones and tablets. Invoking any application from here runs it in full-screen mode, doing away with distractions like the taskbar or file menu.
Finally a built-in mail client that works as promised, and one that can hold its own against rivals. The Windows Mail client supports formats like Exchange, IMAP and POP, meaning it can work with most email accounts on the internet. The interface is simple and easy to use, yet powerful enough for advanced users.
Like Photos, your contacts too can be pulled in from multiple sources on the internet. Whether you use Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or even MySpace, all your contacts are aggregated under the People app. Social networkers will love the fact that contacts show recent status updates from Twitter and Facebook.