Microsoft is betting not one but two farms on Windows 8. It was made available to the public in a preview release this week as part of activity for the Microsoft Build conference for hardware and software developers.
It is naturally expected that Microsoft update its Windows desktop and server platform every few years. But, with Windows 8, Microsoft is also betting on the touch screen tablet market that Apple dominates with its iPad. In order to do so, Windows 8 has a dual personality. One is the traditional desktop environment similar to Windows 7 and its predecessors. The other uses the touch based Metro user interface (UI) familiar to Windows Phone 7 users.
I downloaded and installed the Windows 8 Preview 32-bit version on a Asus Eee PC T91MT netbook. This model has a multi-touch display, Atom Z520 processor, 1GB memory and a 32GB SSD (Solid State Drive). It could be thought of as 1.5 generation netbook. It is a relatively slow computer representative of low end computers sold in the past several years. Windows 8 works with the T91MT’s touch display. However, the display resolution is limited to a very low 800 x 600 pixels. Touch access is reaonably responsive with the exceptin of the on-screen touch keyboard. This virtual keyboard cannot keep up with even moderate typing speed and is unusuable on a legacy computer like the T91MT. None of the apps seen in various demonstrations of the Samsung tablet Microsoft gave away at the Build conference are installed with the Windows 8 Preview download available from Microsoft. The only components that are available are Settings and Windows Explorer. Internet Explorer’s icon is in the Windows 8 tiled Metro UI but does not launch. The IE web browser will launch from the Desktop mode, however.
The Windows 8 Metro touch first interface looks useable. But, I’ll need to be able to install and use touch apps designed for it to form an opinion.