[Exclusive] Sneak Peek at Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Thanks to the good folks at WPDang.com, I successfully smuggled myself into a blogger event held by Microsoft China in its headquarter earlier today. The event itself turned out to be more about introducing Windows 8 (from the very basics) to opinion leaders. And it pretty much followed contents already available at the good ole Build Windows 8 blog. But anyway, I spotted some interesting stuff on the presenter’s computer, which runs a copy of, Windows 8 Consumer Preview, a.k.a. the goodie you guys are about to put your hands on in less than 24 hours.

Cameras are forbidden throughout the whole event, so please forgive the lack of any pictures. If that’s OK for you, the following bullet points will give you a little bit of advance knowledge about 24 hours earlier than you otherwise should get them.

So, here’s what I saw:

  • The Windows Store has seemingly gotten quite some apps for sale (all free of charge now) so far. One the screen I saw live tiles from QQ (China’s, and the planet’s, instant messaging service) and Renren (China’s answer to the government-blocked Facebook). Major Chinese service providers are giving the new OS strong support.
  • Remember back in Developer Preview how the application shortcuts from Aero UI piled up into a glorious mess on the Metro desktop? In the Consumer Preview it’s almost the same… Only now you can group tiles and name the groups. Easier to manage.
  • You know the Start button is gone. Now if you have a touch device, just bring up the charm bar on the right and click the Windows button to switch between Metro and Aero. Or if you are confined to mouse & keyboard, just hover your cursor on the edge-most pixels in the bottom left corner of the task bar, in no time you will find a thumbnail of your Metro desktop popping up. Click it and you are in the Metroland.
  • The copy of Consumer Preview ran super slick on a ThinkPad 420S. It’s so slick that no one ever suspected the OS was running from an external SSD, until the presenter broke the truth to us. Yeah it’s that fast. The only drawback of running Windows 8 on the SSD is slower boot up, which takes… about 14 seconds. Right, 14 seconds is the new slow.
  • There’s a new gesture to zoom out and show all tiles in one screen now: swipe from bottom up. Or if you are using a mouse & keyboard PC, find any blank space on your Metro desktop, right click, and the rest is pretty straight forward.
  • Ribbon menu in Windows Explorer, not exactly news. But from the Ribbon, you can quickly launch the command line mode and PowerShell. No more messing with [Start menu]->[search]->[cmd]->[enter].
  • The presenter says that Microsoft is currently close to the end of negotiation with two “very famous Chinese online service providers”, and after that, a user could log into Windows 8 with not only Live ID, but also user ID from those providers. This opens up A LOT OF possibilities. Log into your PC with your Facebook ID? Shouldn’t be impossible, right?
  • Improved power management means that the button saying “Power Off” doesn’t really power your PC off. Instead, the button puts your PC into deep hibernation (almost no power consumption). Next time when you think you are doing a cold boot, you are actually just waking it up. Way faster than cold boot.
  • No more Daemon Tools, no more Alcohol 120%. Windows 8 now supports .iso files natively, or so the guy said. Double click on a .iso image and you find yourself having a virtual drive already. Same applies to .vhd files.
  • New file system called “REFS”. The FS does magical things like merging multiple physical drives into one single, big, nice disc partition. Effectively RAID-5, the FS has advanced features such as data back up, and restoring corrupted drives. REFS is NOT bootable though. You will have to install your OS on a “normal” partition, say NTFS.
  • I think in Developer Preview, you can’t close a Metro app. Now you can. The gesture is to drag the app window (with finger or mouse) and throw it downward. A lot like what you do in webOS, only different direction. As a webOS user I could tell you it’s definitely a good thing.
  • Improved Windows Update for… drivers… Were you in the enormous pain of combing through the entire interweb for some driver for your old hardware the last time around? Now you can feel easier… You will get somewhat better support from Windows Update. Amen.
  • One last thing. I realized that the presenter had WALLPAPER (not just generic Metro background color) on his Metro desktop. The customization option you guys have been asking for is there after all, I reckon.

That’s about it. Now you guys can prepare to embrace the techie goodness in about 24 hours.


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