This weekend, like over a million other geeks that wanted to be on the bleeding edge of technology, I installed the new Windows 8 Developer Preview, in both the desktop and server editions.
My colleague Zack Whittaker has created a comprehensive screenshot gallery which details the installation experience and a deep-dive through a number of the new features of the OS. However, I thought that it might be a good idea to prepare a screencast to show you what exactly it looks like to actually use Windows 8.
This was no small feat. While I do have a wide range of PC and x86 server hardware at my disposal, I do not have an x86-based touch-capable tablet and I wasn't issued one because I didn't go to BUILD.
Also, I didn't want to disrupt my current lab environment using an on the metal install of what is effectively Alpha-quality code that was likely to blow up in my face while using it.
So I had to fake it -- I had to virtualize Windows 8 on the new VMWare Workstation 8product, which literally just came out this week and as far as I know is the only software product short of Microsoft's own Hyper-V 3 built into Windows 8 Server that can actually fully virtualize Windows 8 including the hardware acceleration features.
Trust me, I tried VirtualBox 4.1 and Workstation 7.1. It's a big fail on either. I'll note that it will install on VirtualBox, but the integration tools/optimized drivers will not work, so I'd avoid it.
I've talked a bit about Server 8 already, but now that I've seen the new Metro UI, everything is starting to fall into place at least in terms of how I perceive this release. Windows 8 is a "Hybrid" or transitional operating system, a synthesis of legacy compatibility(Win32/Win64, .NET) with a completely parallel, new UI with completely new APIs to go with it. As a hybridized OS, it's something of a compromise.
The Metro UI definitely takes a while to get used to, particularly when you have to context switch between new WinRT apps and old Win32 and .NET apps running in the legacy Windows 7 interface.
I can definitely agree with Microsoft that Metro is well-suited for tablets, but as a desktop UI I'm not so sure yet. It's a bit early in the process to pass judgement on the entire paradigm as Microsoft has at least a year to fill in gaps and take in user feedback.
That being said, I can certainly forsee some considerable problems with acceptance in enterprise environments with the new UI, particularly as it relates to context switching between the old and new environments.
I'm not sure I want to shove the first generation of Metro in front of someone using a desktop PC who has been used to the traditional Windows UI for years, like my parents or your typical office productivity worker.