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Microsoft releases Windows 8 Developer Preview

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September 15, 2011

The Windows 8 Start screen borrows heavily from Windows Phone 7

The Windows 8 Start screen borrows heavily from Windows Phone 7

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Microsoft previewed the next version of its Windows OS in June at D9 and a few more details leaked out shortly after that, but the biggest reveal came this week with Microsoft giving a preview of Windows 8 to kick off its Build conference, followed by the Developer Preview hitting Microsoft servers for anyone to download. With the surge in popularity of touchscreen devices over the past few years the new OS is designed to run on a wider variety of devices and chipsets and embraces touch and apps in a big way with the new "Metro style" interface.

Although Windows 8 has similar system requirements to Windows 7, it boots much faster by saving the kernel memory at shutdown and reloading it during startup. Borrowing from Windows Phone 7, the default Windows 8 Start screen features customizable live tiles, although users can switch to the traditional desktop interface via the desktop tile.

Apps and touch are central to Windows 8

Microsoft has designed Windows 8 is a one-size-fits-all OS to run on everything from 10-inch tablets to 27-inch desktops so users can swipe and scroll via touchscreen, touchpad or mouse. Not one, but two virtual keyboards - one full sized and another split thumb keyboard - are on board for devices without physical keyboards.

No doubt envious of Apple raking in all that cash from its App Store, Microsoft has placed a strong emphasis on apps in Windows 8 and put the new Windows Store front and center so it's easy to buy them. Like Apple, Microsoft will screen all apps before they make it to the Windows Store. Apps can be run in full screen, work on x86, x64 and ARM platforms and adapt to different screen resolutions and device form factors. Different apps can also communicate with each other and will sync over multiple devices.

Internet Explorer 10 has been given a touch makeover

Internet Explorer 10 is onboard and has been optimized for touch browsing with gesture-based navigation and a touch-friendly navigation bar that only appears when you ask (swipe) for it. Notably, Microsoft has also followed Apple's lead and will ditch plug-ins, including Flash, in the Metro version of IE10 for use on tablets in order to improve battery life, security and reliability. However, plug-ins will still be supported in the desktop version on IE10.

Windows 8 is compatible with Windows 7 applications and Windows Explorer and Task Manager have been redesigned to bring commonly used features to the fore. Explorer will feature the controversial "ribbon" toolbar, while Task Manager is now an all-in-one dashboard to monitor and control your PC, with information tracked in real time and able to be viewed as summary graphs.

The new Task Manager in Windows 8

With the release of the Windows 8 Developer Preview, Microsoft will refine and update the OS using the feedback from developers. The company hasn't set a date for the finished version but isn't expected until the second half of 2012. If you want to get a taste of the new OS the Developer Preview is available for download here.

But be warned, this is an early version and is still buggy. It can only be installed as a clean install and can only be removed with a reformat so be sure to use a separate partition or spare machine because you won't be able to go crying to Microsoft if you run into any problems.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
8 Comments

My GOD this looks like crap! Windows eye-candy taken to its non-functionasl extreme. I am SO thankful I won't ever have this sad excuse for an OS UI pushed to any of my computers!

Craig Walker
16th September, 2011 @ 01:13 am PDT

Craig- It's probably not meant for you. It's made for people who use there computers for the simplest of functions. This is also the touch base to allow window functioned operations on tablets and stand a lone computers.

This is just the touch base UI, there's also a front end version as well not too dis-similar from 7 for those slightly advanced users.

And look at the alternatives. Macs user friendly yes but it borrowed a lot from Linux pioneers and windows did the same. Now they're making the computer easier to use for those who just use office, and explorer and learn with ease. Even on a Mac I get asked how to do things fairly often.

Either way, Windows is the only real supporter of 3D graphic work so I'm afraid I'll be jumping on the windows 8 band wagon as soon as it shows its benefits over upgrading 7.

Enjoy

Mark Penver
16th September, 2011 @ 10:11 am PDT

Microsoft could release the tightest, most secure and fastest OS ever known and knockers like Craig Walker will find fault simply because it was a Microsoft product. All I can say, is if you don't like Microsoft, don't buy Microsoft, it's that simple.

Wally3178
18th September, 2011 @ 06:31 pm PDT

I'm looking forward to a PC OS that can interpret sounds and gestures without actualy touching the screen. I know this is possible, just not mainstream.

Terry Penrose
18th September, 2011 @ 07:34 pm PDT

@ Wally3178..

"Microsoft could release the tightest, most secure and fastest OS ever known "

But they won't and never have.

Mr Stiffy
18th September, 2011 @ 08:00 pm PDT

My thoughts exactly Craig. Just more memory hungry crap from MS. Thank goodness there are intelligent computer users out there using "real" OS's like Linux etc.

All the power to them !!!

Ash Ward
19th September, 2011 @ 04:11 am PDT

I think this is a step in the right direction for the future of computing as portable devices become more and more powerful. Personally I would love to have this in a tablet + keyboard dock scenario. You have all your "tablet" function and touch friendly interfaces to do simple tasks, and then you dock it to a keyboard and it becomes a fully functional all-in-one or laptop type setup. Now if only we could get true gaming-level graphics to go truly portable.

Danie Clawson
20th December, 2011 @ 03:44 am PST

More to the point, I dont see a reason, with increasing power in tablets, that I should have to own a tablet, laptop, and a desktop, when one device with the proper interface and design (+ peripherals in some circumstances) can serve all of their purposes.

Danie Clawson
20th December, 2011 @ 03:46 am PST
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