Windows 8 first look
Expected later this year, Windows 8 is Microsoft’s next big play in the ‘Operating System Wars’, following on from the wildly successful Windows 7. Let's take a quick look at what we can expect when it’s released. You can try the Windows 8 consumer preview now, and download the software straight to your computer!
The first huge improvement most people will notice is the speed at which Windows 8 loads – using advanced “hybrid hibernation” technology, it manages to reduce boot time to a mere 8 seconds! Windows 8 never really shuts down; when you close your laptop's lid or log off your PC it will save what you're doing and go into a deep sleep, meaning load times are faster than ever.
All normal operations are also faster, from opening programs and webpages, to copying and manipulating files, making Windows 8 a worthwhile upgrade from any previous OS.
Gone (well, hidden!) is the old boring start bar and desktop, instead Microsoft has adapted the popular metro interface from Windows Phone 7, for a tile-based interface.
Large tiles displaying real-time information is the way forward, it seems – allowing applications to be launched easier and to display information at a glance without having to wait for the app to start.
There has also been a revamp of the explorers, with the file explorer now utilising the ribbon interface introduced in recent years to Office, and Internet Explorer 10 using a very Google Chrome-like minimalist interface. This will be handy as Windows 8 is increasingly being used on tablets.
If the simplified user interface wasn’t enough, several other (previously rather complex) features have been streamlined for the new release. Nearly everyone is familiar with the old ‘Blue Screen Of Death’ (BSOD) when something goes horribly wrong. This is full of scary messages and error codes, generally prompting mass panic. Now, you just get a sad face, and a very simple explanation.
Should something go very wrong, and you need to reinstall Windows, this is also a lot easier. Previously you would have had to go through a laborious process, probably involving finding the original installation disk, or follow manufacturer specific instructions for laptops. Now, it’s a standard operation accessed on start-up to set the machine back to factory defaults in record time.
The usual security features we’ve come to expect are present, in the form of User Account Control, which like Windows 7 is customisable as to how much it protects, depending on your level of proficiency with computers – unlike windows 7, it is by default at the highest level, but can be changed with ease inside the control panel.
Microsoft’s highly recommended anti virus product, Microsoft Security Essentials, appears to be bundled in with Windows 8 and renamed as Windows Defender, helping keep you secure from start to finish.
Other security enhancements are buried deep in the hardware, including a secure boot feature, which should help protect against nasty “rootkit” style viruses that have recently begun to emerge.
Windows 8 will be compatible with tablets, so you'll see much the same interface on your touchscreen as you will on your desktop or laptop. A lot of the menus are more finger friendly, and programs such as IE10 devote most (if not all) of the screen to content, rather than cluttered menus.
Other accessibility options have been added or vastly improved, such as the onscreen keyboard for text input, and the popular pinch-to-zoom feature has been added – these should also be available for touch sensitive monitors, in case you’re feeling handsy or are too lazy to reach for the mouse.
Other familiar features for tablet/mobile fans will be an app store, the possibility of 3g connections, and utilisation of mobile messaging features such as SMS – all pretty standard tablet fayre.
So overall, we should expect Windows 8 to be very successful, with a lot of different hardware possibilities to choose from, increased speed and productivity are nearly certain, I for one will probably be getting this on day of release – I think a lot of others are going to follow suit too!