Windows 8 Consumer Preview: our first impressions

microsoft-1-2-462x307Steven Sinofsky kicked off today’s unveiling of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, announcing that 100,000 code changes had been made since the Developer Preview was released on the world at the back end of last year.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview: our first impressions

“We knew when we did this – the Developer Preview – that the user interface was not done yet,” Sinofsky admitted. “Lots of the product wasn’t done.” The Consumer Preview, however, is an entirely different matter: “It’s much more polished, much more refined, we think of it as complete, all the way through from the low levels to the user experience,” said Sinofsky.

And, from what we saw at the event this afternoon, a lot of the concerns we had at the time have been addressed. Windows 8, of course, is all about the Metro interface and bringing touch into the Microsoft fold, but we weren’t convinced about the bread and butter – how it worked on devices without touchscreens.

With the changes announced today, we’re beginning to feel more confident. “Windows 8 isn’t just about tablets and touch-enabled devices,” said Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of Windows Web Services, before going on to demonstrate how to navigate the newly enhanced Metro home screen on a Lenovo U300S.

“A mouse is very precise, but it’s not great for gestures,” said Leblond, showing how simply shunting the mouse cursor into the four corners of the screen allows the user to get around Windows 8 in a more fluid and intuitive way.

Stick it into the top left of the screen, for example, and leave it there and Windows 8 begins to cycle steadily through your open apps, like Flip 3D on acid. Drag down from that point an an Android-style app-switcher appears, running down the left-hand side of the screen.


The facility to zoom out for a helicopter view of the Metro desktop – dubbed Semantic Zoom – meanwhile, should prove a boon for both non-touchscreen and touchscreen device users, and the way Leblond was sweeping around the UI from app to app proves that, with a bit of practice, hunting down applications using Windows 8 should be just as quick and easy as it is with Windows 7.

Despite rumours, however, the old Windows Start button has not made a reappearance. Traditional Windows apps are still launched in an Windows 7-esque environment, but that tell-tale Windows icon has gone from the bottom left hand corner for good.

We were a little disappointed to see there are still few visual cues to help the uninitiated. You have to learn what the various corner spots and gestures do before you can get really proficient at navigating around. But it’s great to see that Microsoft has been working so hard on giving PC and laptop users back some control that was seemingly lost in the Developer Preview.

Apps, however, will be where the battle is won and lost for Windows 8, and there was significant news from the Microsoft event today. Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president of Windows program management, demonstrated some sumptuous-looking apps all downloaded from the the newly opened Windows 8 Store – Microsoft’s equivalent of the Android Market or the iOS App Store.


iCookBook – a recipe app – looked particularly stunning, complete with beautiful photography and clean, Metro-style live tiles. If developers can keep this standard up, we’ll be happy. And the Store itself looks equally lovely, complete with listings pages crammed with details, screenshots and in-depth descriptions.

The best news for anybody downloading the Consumer Preview is that every single app in the Windows 8 Store will be free, at least until the Release Candidate appears. And more apps will be added throughout the Consumer Preview period.

If there’s a better way of getting everyone to buy into the Windows 8 Metro way of doing things, then we can’t think of it. In Steven Sinofsky’s own words: “To say we’re excited is somewhat of an understatement.” We have to admit to sharing some of that enthusiasm.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos