Microsoft Windows 8 Final Beta Available for Download

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The highly-anticipated new operating system by Microsoft, Windows 8, is getting very close to a launch. This week, Microsoft released the final beta version of the software, dubbed the Windows 8 Release Preview. It’s available for free from the Microsoft store, but in case you’re not ready to reinstall your computer’s operating system, I’ve installed it. Let me tell you what you can expect to see in the next iteration of Windows.

The biggest change is the desktop layout. Instead of your standard start button, taskbar, and independent windows that can be stacked, tiled, or cascaded, like we have seen since Windows 95, Windows 8 features a new desktop called the “Metro” which is the same desktop that is found on Windows-based cellular phones. The Metro is a godsend for touch-screen devices, making opening apps and working in full-screen mode without toolbars getting in the way a cinch. Unfortunately, it is a little annoying for desktop users who have access to a mouse and keyboard, especially power users with plenty of screen real estate who like to open dozens of windows at once. The new Metro desktop also requires Metro-compatible apps that take advantage of the full-screen nature of the software. Any software not Metro-compatible will be thrown into a traditional “compatibility mode” desktop which is identical to the Windows 7 desktop. Honestly, this is where I spent most of my time, since most of my software applications were not yet Metro-compatible.

Getting used to Windows 8 is going to be a chore for many individuals, especially those who have a tendency toward “baby duck syndrome,” which is a human-computer interaction term describing the tendency for users to “imprint” on the first type of operating system they learn. Users who have been using Windows 95-esque desktops for the better part of two decades will likely prefer the old style desktop to the Metro desktop, and it seems like a bit of a strategic oversight on Microsoft’s part to force such a major change when their operating system is in such a dominating market position. Time will tell if individuals and software developers embrace the Metro-style desktop or if Windows 8 gets skipped over much in the same way that Windows Vista did.

Watch the Windows 8 release video now!