The penultimate version of Windows 8 before its official launch, called Release Preview, is smoother than its previous preview but Microsoft still has some way to go to fulfil its goal of creating a strong home-grown mobile/desktop platform since the OS has changed very little from its last iteration (Consumer Preview).
Microsoft has given attention to improving the Metro experience by providing a more elaborate application system. Native applications on the start screen, while maybe not fulfilling everyone’s needs, are slick and offer a clean and enjoyable interface. The news app works on Bing and through Twitter and Facebook shows trending articles, news tweets and posts as stated by Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience. The sports app shows news, schedules and statistics. The travel tile gives information on locations, helps in bookings and allows you to view panoramas. The present native apps still face some problems and seem to be installed as a proof of concept rather than functionality.
The Consumer Preview’s native applications have received updates and improved considerably. Harris believes that the best thing about Windows 8 is how all the applications work together to complete tasks. Another important inclusion is Flash as a part of the rendering engine of Internet Explorer rather than it being a plug-in.
Multitasking is also very fluid on the Metro experience and is expected to be one of its attractive features. It allows for one program to take a majority of the screen and the other to take a small part of it and can be helpful to people who like to do a lot of things at the same time, using the Snap View it provides. Multitouch, however, is still not up to mark in all aspects. Horizontal movements need to be worked upon and the vertical ones work on reverse scrolling, similar to Mac’s X Lion. However, for a review version, most of the gestures work well and fairly smoothly.
Harris believes that the desktop will now be thought of as an addition to the PC, almost like an app, which works wonderfully on with the Metro UI. To put it simply, the desktop, per se, is dead and just another app on the PC. This may upset Windows 7 fans but Microsoft has taken the decision keeping in mind the needs of the growing mobile and tablet segment.
However, Microsoft seems to be ready to face criticism from either flank. Harris thinks that people will be able to handle both interfaces together. Once the polished Windows 8 is out, everyone will get what they want. Diehards will use the desktop application while Metro fans will be able to use the new UI. Everyone else can use both.