According to the Internet news the Windows 8 Customer Preview hit over a million downloads in the first 24 hours. Well given that it became available in the evening of the 29th and I downloaded it in the morning of the 1st, I guess I was one of those million people.
I’m really hoping that Windows 8 turns out well and that tablets based on that OS will start to become available this year so that I can throw out my Android crapware.
Unfortunately my first impressions could have been better.
Now before I start harping, for obvious reasons I have not used the preview for more than a day and a half, and it is a Beta so everything is subject to change. I also used it on mouse only (no touch) hardware. But it’s supposed to be able to replace existing Windows 7 installations so… I have to say that I was much more impressed with the Windows 7 Beta I used a long (in computing terms at least) time ago. It was much more stable and looked much more like a finished product for one thing.
It’s quite clear that the underlying core is quite sound and that the Metro interface has lots of potential. But it needs a lot more work to become a usable product and I am in doubt about at least one of the design choices that seems to have been made.
First of all a lot of stuff seems both unfinished and buggy. Yes it’s a Beta but some stuff feels more Alpha than Beta. Most of the Metro apps also looks like they where designed for a phone, not for a tablet or desktop PC. There’s not really many apps in the first place and certainly no useful apps.
The Metro mail client for instance has virtually no settings, a fixed layout and you cannot add POP or IMAP account, only Hotmail, Gmail and Exchange ones. WTF? It also seems to update if and when it feels like it and there’s no way to merge incoming mail in a single inbox. Come one, my phone does better than that!
The much advertised SkyDrive app is also pretty much a joke. It has a really simplistic and boring looking interface and you cannot really do much with it. There’s for instance no way, that I’ve found, to create a new folder on SkyDrive. You still have to use the web interface for that. The “SkyDrive” integration is pretty much only a few SkyDrive aware Metro apps. When using the File Explorer in Desktop mode there’s no SkyDrive for instance.
The Metro version of Internet Explorer is also pretty much a joke. It’s not very stable. Ok it’s a Beta so that’s perhaps not a disaster…yet. But, there’s no synchronization of favorites between the Desktop version and the Metro version. As a matter of fact there’s not really a notion of favorites at all. If you want to be able to save URL’s you have to clutter the Metro Home with them. That’s just crap. You cannot set a home page, it always opens the last used page. I just hate that!
Similar things can be said for the other apps. They are so (too) simplistic that they really are not useful on a tablet or desktop sized computer anymore. If you have more than a few photos in your archive the picture app is really no good. Etc. etc.
Now most of these app issues will hopefully be resolved before this thing goes production but they would not really be a problem at all if you could just set the system up so that you booted into the desktop and just lost the Metro interface altogether unless you really wanted it, or if there where some better integration between Metro and Desktop apps.
But in reality the two different GUI’s really fight between themselves. You have to boot to Metro and you find yourself flipping back and forth between them much more than you would want. A lot of the tools, especially the system tools, have no Metro equivalent and when you click on a non-Metro app in the Metro interface it doesn’t bring up the app full screen like you would expect but it really drops you into the desktop and launches the application. When you quit the app you don’t go back to Metro but get dumped into the Desktop. Not very smooth at all.
I’m also not too thrilled by the fact that they have messed with the Desktop GUI itself. The windows for instance is much more rough and blocky looking compared to the Windows 7 ones.
Now, as I said at the start, the core is definitely good. The Metro interface works quite well, even without touch. But the Metro apps, at least the core built in ones, have to improve substantially as well as the overall stability and the Metro-Desktop interaction.
As someone who have appreciated Microsoft Windows and their related products for a long time (and who really like Phone 7 and it’s Metro interface), I hope they get Windows 8 sorted out before the end of the year. Right now I’m not impressed.