Microsoft has released the consumer preview of Windows 8, bringing the next generation operating system closer to reality. Windows 8 embraces "touch" technology with its Metro user interface which is similar to the Windows Phone 7 interface.
The Windows 8 UK release date is likely to be at the end of the year, around October or November 2012.
When you first boot up Windows 8 and the new Start screen comes into focus you will experience a whole new world of computing - there is no start button for a start.
There are new ways of switching between Apps (applications), as well as more updates to the desktop tools. There are changes to file copying, power management, security, networking, hardware support and more.
Then there are the first real Metro Apps. You can visit the Windows Store and discover the first real third-party Apps like on the iPhone. Microsoft is not supporting tablets built to run Android or WebOS.
The Metro interface lets you pin your email, photos, appointments and friends to it, which livens the interface up considerably.
The improved touch gestures also make it far easier to work with. Swipe from the right edge of the screen and you get the redesigned charm bar. Swipe up from the bottom on the Start screen to get a quick link to the All Apps view. The semantic zoom feature works by pinching to shrink the tiles on the Start screen to tiny thumbnails so you can see everything at once. You should also explore the Switch List. You can close Metro Apps by dragging down from the top of the screen until the App shrinks down to a thumbnail, and keep dragging that off the screen to close it.
The basic tools you'll need for everyday computing include email, calendars, contacts, messaging, photos and social networking. Microsoft intend to include the desktop SkyDrive App for cloud backup of documents and a Microsoft Reader PDF viewer. Your documents on SkyDrive open in the Office Web Apps in Metro IE (Internet Explorer) rather than directly in the SkyDrive App.There are also Bing Maps, weather, finance, music, video catalogues by Zune HD, and Windows Media Centre.
The Xbox Live Games App will look familiar to both Xbox and Windows Phone users. With the Xbox Controller you see what you can do on the Xbox screen, and can touch areas directly.
Scrolling and zooming is better in the updated IE 10 . You can double tap to zoom on the part of a page you're interested in.
Windows 8 does an excellent job of making an interface that was not designed for touch work with your fingers. You can use a touch screen or a mouse and keyboard. The question is how well Windows 8 can compete with Apples iOS.