Windows 8 Developer Preview – Thoughts and Screenshots

By now, you’re probably aware of the fact that Microsoft has released a developer preview of Windows 8, the next version of Windows, this week for everyone to download. Although this release is intended for developers, anyone can download and no sign in or license key is required to do so. Microsoft is probably doing this to receive feedback as well as get everyone excited.

Head over to the Microsoft Dev Center site to grab your free copy of Windows 8 Developer Preview. It is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit (the latter of which also includes a version with preinstalled developer tools).

Windows 8 is currently available in three editions (technically two): 32-bit, 64-bit, and 64-bit with developer tools, with download sizes of 2.8 GB, 3.6 GB, and 4.8 GB respectively.

You can either install it onto a virtual machine (see note below), install it on a test system, or inst all it alongside your current OS.

If you’re planning to use a virtual machine, be aware that I’ve only been able to get it to work on VMware Workstation 8.0 (newest version released Sept. 14 only – previous versions don’t work) and VirtualBox (some settings need to be tweaked).

What’s New in Windows 8?

Windows 8 is the next version of the world’s most popular operating system. The most noticeable new features include:

  • Metro Interface – The main star of the show, Metro is the new default interface for Windows 8. Inspired by Windows Phone 7 and optimized for tablet touch screens. The regular desktop mode is still available.

Windows 8 Metro

  • Faster Boot Times – Windows 8 is able to boot significantly faster than its predecessor.
  • Less Memory Consumption – Microsoft claims Windows 8 uses fewer processes and less RAM to run than Windows 7.
  • Windows Explorer Overhaul – Windows Explorer now features the Ribbon UI that’s currently used in Microsoft Office, Paint, WordPad, and other applications. File copying has also been improved and ISO mounting has been added.

Windows 8 Explorer

  • Task Manager Overhaul – Task Manager now contains many useful tools such as a startup application manager, application resource usage tracker, and an easy way to restart Explorer.

Windows 8 Task Manager Overhaul

  • In-Place PC Refresh and Reset – There is a button in Control Panel to reload your entire PC in a few clicks, while leaving all your files intact. You can even reset your whole PC to default state from the same place.
  • Support for ARM Processors – Expect to see many low-power battery-efficient tablets running Windows 8
  • Hyper-V Integrated – Create virtual machines without extra software
  • Better Multiple Monitor Support – The taskbar and wallpaper can now span across multiple monitors
  • Windows-To-Go – Windows 8 can now fit and run from a USB flash drive. Not available in the Developer Preview.
  • Windows Live Integration – Your settings, as well as files, mail, and photos, can be synced across all your PCs with your Windows Live ID via Sync, Mail, and SkyDrive.
  • Windows Store – Clearly inspired by the success of others, this should be self explanatory. You can now find, purchase, and download apps all in one place. Currently says Coming Soon.


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Other Thoughts

Tablet PCs in the past failed because the OS (Windows) simply was not touch optimized. With Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to get back into the tablet business, while still maintaining one operating system.

One OS for Both

Having one operating system for both tablet and desktop (with the ability to switch between them in one click) could be a major selling point of this. I would expect to see a lot of tablet and keyboard docks on the market in the future, similar to the Asus Transformer.

I own an iPad and while it certainly is better than regular computers at doing some things, I’ve always found it quite limiting to use. I don’t see the iPad (or any tablet) replacing my laptop. However, with Windows 8, consumers could buy one device and have it function both as a laptop and a tablet.

Ribbon UI

At first, I found the Explorer Ribbon UI cluttered, but I noticed it removes the bottom information bar, so in some views, there is actually more room to view content. The ribbon tabs also expose some previously buried options that most users probably don’t know even exists, such as BitLocker and Shadow Copy. Rather than remove or hide lesser-known options, Microsoft does the exact opposite with the Ribbon. I really like the addition of this ribbon but unfortunately, I don’t really like how it looks right now and don’t think I’ll find myself using it much because many of the options are already available in the right click menu.

Traditional Start Menu

There is a little hack to bring back the Start Menu, but I hope Microsoft decides to have the Start Menu show in future versions of Desktop mode. I dislike having to go to the Metro interface with a keyboard and mouse to search for apps. I have a feeling we won’t be seeing a traditional start menu in Windows 8 though. This will take most users a very long time to get used to and may result in negative criticism.


The new Metro interface is really great and is definitely a step in the right direction if Microsoft wants to get into tablets. But the company needs to remember those still using keyboard and mice. Overall, as it is right now, the experience using a traditional keyboard and mouse isn’t that great, particularly with the removal of the Start menu. Metro is a touch optimized interface, but even keyboard/mice users must use it.

Of course, this Developer Preview is only a pre-beta so many things will change in future versions. Microsoft has a lot of potential of Windows 8 and the OS looks promising right now. Currently, there might be a bit of a learning curve to get used to everything, particularly the Metro interface.

I’m looking forward to trying out future releases of Windows 8.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of Windows 8 Developer Preview? Love it? Or is this heading for another failure? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

If you have not yet tried Windows 8, you can download the Developer Preview now. This pre-release will expire on March 11, 2012.

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Brian is the co-founder of TechAirlines. He is a developer currently focusing on mobile and web development. He is currently a sophomore at Stony Brook University, majoring in Computer Science.

  • Creastery

    Nice introduction post to Windows 8 Developer Preview! :)

    In my opinion, I think that although the implementation of Fluent UI (More commonly known as Ribbon UI) in almost all default programs appears to look neater and more elegant than before, however, it is too overused and show functions that most users will not use.
    (Especially so when rearranging elements on the Ribbon cannot be done.)

    And yes, Windows 8 Developer Preview certainly has a faster boot up time and consumes lesser memory.

    One of the new feature, which most people are probably not aware is that in Windows 8, one can drag and drop files/folders into the folder appearing in the address bar of the explorer to copy to that particular folder. This works for “Open With…” dialogs as well.

    I would also like to mention a brilliant feature that is only available in Windows 8 – ISO Mounting. This allows users to mount ISO without purchasing a program or using additional software to do so.

    Regarding the Metro interface, I feel that Microsoft should allow the ways how users want to toggle the Metro interface. For example, users can swipe to the right of the sceen to trigger the Metro.

    By replacing the start menu, Microsoft is probably trying to beautify the style how people use their computer with Windows 8.

    However, Start Menu is a familar interface and useful feature that has sticked with Windows for 16 years, first introduced in Windows 95.

    I strongly feel that Start Menu should not be replaced by Metro, especially when Metro has been too optimized for tablets.

    With mouse and keyboard, it is rather hard to navigate around using Metro and will probably put users off.

    However, Metro is indeed an elegant method to explore the computer. After using the Metro in Windows 8 Developer Preview on my MacBook, I actually found it quite friendly-looking and awesome in certain ways! Imagine that on a Tablet PC! That would be best :)

    To end off this lengthy comment, I would like to thank Microsoft for allowing the public to try out the Windows 8 Developer Preview!

    P.S. If you have not tried out Windows 8 Developer Preview or do not wish to dual boot, you should consider trying it out in a Virtual Machine, such as VMWare or VIrtualBox!

    • Brian Yang

      I too strongly feel that the Start Menu should not be replaced by Metro. Metro is a touch optimized interface and using a mouse to navigate isn’t that great. This will definitely cause a lot of negative criticism among many users if the traditional Start Menu does not make an official return.

      I wish I had a tablet PC to test this on. :(

      I’m looking forward to future pre-releases of Windows 8.

  • Fierens Tommy

    As all of you, i`m also missing the start button and i hacked it right away so it returned to my desktop ;) I have tried the metro interface with splashtop streamer on my ipad. That way it was easy to try the touchfeeling of the new interface… It works like a charm and is really fast. This time ( after all these years) I`m thinking of getting rid of my ipad and buying a windows 8 tablet asap. Ribbon interface is some what “getting used to” but after a day or three you will get the hang of it ;)

    • Creastery

      Looks like you are in love with Windows 8 :)

  • Himanshu

    Preview of Windows 8 is nice and making sense after it failed to get better things done in Tablet OS. With Windows 8 MS will feature on Touch Computers.. also i read it somewhere that INTEL will now concentrate on Windows 8 operating system for its future products.

  • lilo9412

    One OS for Both is a big idea,it looks very attractive for me. Before that, I doubt very interested on the android, and now, I am looking forward to window 8.

  • Ankit patel

    This is history making os of microsoft windows