Windows users quickly warmed up to Windows 7 when it was released two years ago, so it comes as little surprise that Microsoft took pains to make its follow-up even more revolutionary. The developer version of Windows 8 was released earlier this month, and the reviews are no less than great so far. Among the major changes are an overhaul of the user interface, support for ARM processors in addition to Intel and AMD, and a “Windows Assessment Console” with a refresh option that allows you to start over after a system change without affecting your files.
Most developers agree that the user interface is the operating system’s biggest strength. The similarity to the Windows Mobile interface is uncanny; similar applications are grouped into blocks known as “Live Tiles” in a layout that developers call Metro-style. The look lends itself well to touch-screen technology, which Microsoft said was exactly their goal. They aimed for a design that could be used in tablets but would be “equally at home with a mouse and keyboard. The design has also been compared to the Samsung Galaxy’s famous Breeze interface.
A Windows app store has also been added, no doubt a response to the Apple’s hugely popular iTunes and the growing app market. Users can buy software, games, music, and all sorts of add-ons to enhance their computers, much like they do with smartphones and tablets.
Logging on is a bit less complicated, if less secure (although this remains to be seen). Instead of typing in a password, users unlock their screens by tapping on certain areas of the screen. This makes for a welcome screen that’s much easier on the eyes, and those who are strapped for time may appreciate being able to log on in seconds. As with Windows Mobile, you can choose which applications go on your start screen, saving you even more time. Other features include Internet Explorer 10, which promises to be faster, more intuitive, and more secure, and an improved Windows Defender.
Windows 8 is expected to become available by mid-2012, but no official release date has been announced. If you’d like to give it a try, you can download the developer version, which is free, except that there’s no guarantee of quality or stability as the OS is still in the works. As long as you don’t do any crucial work and don’t use it in a production environment, the developer version is a good way to see what’s coming.