A while in the making, Windows 8 is almost truly here. The free 'consumer preview' is now live and downloadable here (3.3GB for x64, 2.5GB for x86) and will last till Jan 15th of next year.
Windows 8 marks a make-or-break point for Microsoft; beset as they are by the rise of Apple's OSX and the threat of Google's Chromium web-OS (sorry Linux fans, still not so a huge threat from you). As a result MS has worked from the fresh base provided by Vista, the x64 version of which, at least started from a blank sheet of paper coding wise and are concentrating, as with Windows 7, on enhancing the interface and user experience.
With Windows 8 Microsoft are attempting to combine the traditional PC world with that of the tablet (aka iPad thing) - both types of computer will run the same OS functionally speaking. Herein lies the first criticism of Windows 8 - that it is simply two different OS' bolted together - a 'Metro' interface that will predominate on tablets, coupled with a traditional PC desktop that can be accesses via Metro (all PC's will start "on" Metro).
Functionally this is both inarguably a bit true and a somewhat short-sighted perception - giving users the 'really, really big dynamic icons' presented by Metro isn't a bad thing per se given it remains user customisable and that the majority of our time is spent on a select few applicaitons. Whether the removal of a 'proper' start button, and the program menus therein is a good idea, will however be a question we feel will only be answered through time. While familiar to most Mac users and 'power' Windows users, searching for non-metro applications by name, rather than by menu will be new to the majority.
The new user experience deliverd to compete with OSX and Chromium also marks Windows 8 as very much a 'consumer' OS. The interface(s) are too radicatlly different for most workplaces - should it prove popular eventually this could filter down into a business-centric release, but for now MS is concentrating very solidly on its slightly slipping hold on the consumer market.
We could go on - but at the end of the day, the proof of the pudding is very much going to be in the eating for Atomicans. Our experience thus far hasn't been too bad. Who else is keen for a slice?