Now that Microsoft has released the latest beta version of Windows 8, with the clever name of Release Preview, here are five things we love and five things we hate about the new OS
Windows 8 - Features we love and hate
Microsoft is simplifying the look of the Desktop mode in Windows 8, eschewing the Aero theme it has used since Windows Vista. Rounded corners of window panes have been squared off, gradients have been removed, and the number of colours used has been reduced to make things cleaner and easier to see (presumably on a tablet screen).
Advanced boot screen
On systems that use UEFI (unified extensible firmware interface) instead of BIOS, Windows 8 can boot into full operational mode in less than 10 seconds. The startup process has become so fast that on some newer model computers it may not be possible to bypass it in order to go into the advanced boot screen by pressing the F2 or F8 keys. So Microsoft has included an option under the Windows 8 system settings where you can force the OS to go right into the advanced boot menu from a cold start, or you can hold the Shift key and restart Windows 8 to enter it.
Enhanced parental controls
Windows 8 will have an updated Family Safety tool that will allow parents to set up user accounts for their children, and then allocate time limits on computer use; restrict access to certain applications, online search terms, and sites; and spew out a weekly report detailing the child's web usage activity.
New and improved CHKDSK
This one is a little surprising: Microsoft updated the hard disk checking and fixing tool CHKDSK, which has been around since the early days of MS-DOS. The new CHKDSK will debut in Windows 8, and use a new NTFS health model. Instead of tying up your computer when it's run, the new CHKDSK in Windows 8 will split the check/fix process into a series of stages: Detect Corruption, Online Self-Healing, Online Verification, Online Identification & Logging, and Precise & Rapid Correction.
Support for mobile sensors
Further establishing that the next Windows will be a hybrid OS that will also be for tablets, Windows 8 will also support a slew of sensor technologies that are used in mobile devices: accelerometers, ambient light sensors, gyroscopes and magnetometers.
No free upgrade for you!
If you buy a Windows 7 computer now, you won't get a free upgrade to Windows 8. Previously, Microsoft and computer makers provided an upgrade, gratis, from Windows Vista to Windows 7 for systems that were bought on the cusp of the latter OSes debut. (Maybe they were being generous to make up for the awfulness that was Vista.) This time, there will be no free ticket to the world of Metro. But if you buy a Windows 7 computer between June 2 and Windows 8's launch, you’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $14.99.
Windows RT may lock out Firefox and Chrome
According to Mozilla, the version of Windows 8 designed for ARM-based processors, Windows RT, will only allow Internet Explorer to access key functionalities of the OS, which includes allowing a browser to run in Windows Classic (the familiar Windows desktop environment, as opposed to the new Metro UI). Google also isn't happy with this development, and the government is now looking into whether this could constitute anti-competitive behaviour on Microsoft's part.
Media Center will cost extra
The Media Center app came built-in with the Premium and Pro versions of Windows 7. But with Windows 8, you will have to pay extra (price to be announced) to download and install it through the OS.
No DVD player in Media Center
You won't be able to play your movie DVDs through Media Center - apparently, Microsoft doesn't want to pay the licensing fees. This might not be a big issue since in the past computer makers have provided third-party DVD players that can also work through Media Center.
Windows To Go limited to Enterprise version
Unfortunately this feature will only be available for the Enterprise version: The ability to write a bootable image of Windows 8 onto a USB stick. Windows To Go will allow workers to run a virtual clone of their office Windows 8 computer on their own personal computer or on a technically capable mobile device.
Small Chinese tablet makers are experimenting with dual-boot tablets with Windows and Linux
IT departments testing Windows 10's preview must keep the OS up to date
Microsoft focused much of its Build conference keynote on Windows 8.1 and dug into Windows 8.1's business-oriented features at TechEd Europe