The best thing about Microsoft launching a new version of Windows is watching how they'll awkwardly advertise it. The Windows 7 party videos might just be the most cringe-worthy thing they've ever done, and that's saying something. So I'm a little disappointed with the launch of the free Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The video on the site is a rather awful, embarrassing attempt to ride the Wub Wub wave by layering dubstep over operating system videos. Incongruous, yes, but I doubt I'll be linking to it when Windows 9 comes out. It's just unmemorably awful.
I'm usually keen to download and try early copies of Windows, but after having to reinstall W7 last month I think I'll pass on Windows 8 for now. I am interested, as I quite like some of the aesthetics: the live info on the desktop apps are a particularly smart addition as I do like integrating of information. Microsoft have enabled cloud sharing as well, so files and settings are imported across devices. So far those that have it installed are reporting it launches speedily and responds snappily.
But I'm a bit wary that they seem to have made two operating systems in one: one for touch screens and one for desktop, and I'm worried that's it's specific to neither. In fact, this looks like the beginning of the end of the desktop, with the traditional methods we're used to being hidden behind that clunky, Windows Phone style interface. A lot of the interaction is about mouse-placement, using the corners of the screen as hotspots for accessing programs. The taskbar and desktop are hidden, accessed in the same way as all the other programs.
But, at the same time, there's also a lot of changes, really smart tweaks, for the desktop: they've finally improved file copying, with proper reporting on the speed and control over what's copying, and a smart task manager that shows what starts-up with the PC and allows you to disable unwanted programs, and it also shows that applications pause when put in the background, using up RAM but not CPU cycles.
In all this games seem to have been a bit lost: there's an Xbox Live app that brings a few elements of the Xbox Dashboard over to the PC, which is both a fancy games launcher and market rolled into one. It could signal the end of GFWL, as it properly exists outside the games, but there's been nothing mentioned about how that will be handled. And given Microsoft have just launched a Flight as a GFWL game, I doubt it's being wholly ditched.
I guess I could try it and see, as that's what the preview all about, but when my PC is my primary means for everything ever. So instead I'll leave that to Lifehacker, who do a good job of showing off a few of those tiny little details, and The Verge who've had a good play with it.
Let us know if you're interested in the direction W8 is taking, as I'm rather comfortable with 7 as it is.