This past week, I upgraded my Samsung Series 7 Slate to the Windows 8 Release Preview. I have been looking forward to the preview since I started using the Consumer Preview earlier in the year. Microsoft has asserted that the Release Preview is now feature complete. Here are a few things that I’ve noticed:
- The Metro UI is now highly responsive. The experience of touching, swiping and pinching is very predictable similar to the experience on an iPad.
- Metro is a radical departure from the traditional Windows 7/XP desktop. It’s hard to argue that fact. However, My experience is that it is highly intuitive. Tapping on a tile gets you to the app. A swipe from left to right switches between apps and a swipe from right to left brings you back to the start page.
- The real beauty of Metro however, is the apps themselves. With the Release Preview Microsoft has release a series of apps in its store. The Sports and Finance apps are great examples of how content can be displayed in a simple to view and easily understandable fashion. Metro allows developers to hide navigation and then make it available with a simple upwards swipe. In addition, unlike the iPad, well built Metro apps share a common appearance and navigation structure that creates a truly common experience.
- The Xbox Companion App working together with my Xbox gives a nice glimpse into how Microsoft intends to share the Metro experience not only across apps but across devices. With the Xbox App, I can control what’s on my TV screen from my tablet.
- The keyboard (which was “quirky” with the Consumer Preview) is very intuitive and easy to use with the Release Preview. The keys are large and responsive making the tablet into a great web browsing experience with IE10
- The Store is a very intuitive UI for searching for apps and downloading them. Apps are grouped into logical departments that make it easy to find items of interest. Once you’ve selected an app for download, they download very quickly over a standard wireless connection.
- The boot time in Windows 8 is extremely fast. It takes a few seconds to go from hibernated to on. The experience on my Windows 8 tablet (which is running an Intel 64-bit processor) is similar to the experience with an iPad. Microsoft has not yet publicly shown an ARM device, but my assumption is that it will start up even faster.
I have been taking my Windows 8 tablet into all of my client meetings. I am an avid note taker and for years have been using OneNote with on a Tablet PC with a stylus to take hand written notes. With Windows 8, OneNote is now truly a killer app. I have an tile for OneNote in the first group on my Start Screen. This allows me to begin note taking within seconds. Unlike an iPad, I can use a stylus to “ink” my notes. I have OneNote stored in a SkyDrive, which allows me to sync my notes across all of my devices (including my iPad). This is a huge productivity boost for me. It allows me to leave the laptop at home and focus on my client when in front of them.
I believe Microsoft has a hit on its hands with Windows 8. This WILL NOT be another Vista as some are saying. As with any major OS upgrade, users will have to “un-learn” what they may have known in the past. In that regard Microsoft is taking a page out of Apple’s playbook since Apple regularly cuts ties to its past devices and OSs when it releases a new product.