Microsoft surprised us by releasing the Windows 8 Release Preview. This is the last public release of the new, re-imagined version of Redmond’s flagship product. Windows 8 RP is mostly feature complete with the underpinnings complete.
So, how good is it and how different is it from the Consumer Preview?
Well, pretty damn good and not very much.
This version, near production ready, sports a slightly refined visual appearance (which, as we found out, is not in stone as Aero is going away on the desktop, but is still present here) and more complete apps. It is pretty solid, so far, and the browser is, night and day, better than the browser in the Consumer Preview. The Consumer Preview was also a bit more clunky with non-touch devices. Happily, I can say that this version just feels ‘normal’ with Windows 8.
I was able to ‘upgrade’ from Consumer Preview to Release Preview without any fuss. It ONLY allows for ‘clean’ installs, but it, like Windows Vista and 7, it saves your previous world in Windows.OLD. Not a problem. The upgrade took about 45 minutes, including the download time. A marked improvement over XP and Vista and on par with 7.
Another noticeable improvement is the transition from Metro to desktop. Still somewhat jarring, just not as much as it was in the previous Consumer and Developer versions.
There are a number of changes being made that are not yet included and almost all of the have to do with ridding Windows 8 of its legacy. Among the changes: removing the ability to restore the native Windows 7 start button and menu; removing the ability to boot into the desktop; removing the ‘chrome’ from the desktop by flattening out everything and removing transparencies (Aero); and other changes dealing with the legacy UI bits they want to replace. Now, before you get all bent out of shape, you have to keep in mind the goal of this release: consistency across platforms. See, Microsoft understands that the PC, their bread and butter, is fading from importance and they do not want to fade with it. Tablets, phones and other devices are slowly taking over and they wand Windows front and foremost and, to achieve that, they must sacrifice backward compatibility. They cannot break it at once (ala Apple) but they can start to do so slowly and these are the first steps. They want to get the public used to Metro and cannot do so if people insist on bypassing Metro and going straight to the Desktop. If they give the choice, many, if not most, will choose to bypass Metro, which is not a good thing to do. So, you MUST boot to Metro-even on the Server side. Hell, I know people who, even today, turn off all of the eye candy and load up the ugly old Windows ‘classic’ theme to make Windows look like Windows 95. UGH.
If you want to learn more and download the Release Preview, go here.
Head over to the WinSuperSite for reviews, screenshots and tips and tricks.