Microsoft Windows 8 Review – Blog Exclusive

Similar to our approach for previous Microsoft operating system launches, CyberGuru has released this opinion paper on Windows 8, rather than a full review of the product.

This review will detail our first impressions with the product, the various flavours of the product and pricing. A series of screenshots is also available. If you would like to ask a question about Windows 8, we would be more than willing to assist. We will be answering questions through our ask a question form and answer the questions as part of the frequently asked questions of the article and as part of an series of articles on Windows 8 in this blog.

First Impressions

It’s not often that I write unfavourably about Microsoft operating systems, but like others I feel that Microsoft’s “reimagining” of their flagship product has gone too far. This is the most considerable change since the launch of Windows 95, when the desktop made its first appearance. During recent years further enhancements have been made, but none has dramatic as moving away from the desktop altogether.

Windows 8 introduces a “Start” screen. The Start screen is similar to the smart phone interface with buttons for each of the applications (apps) installed on your computer. These buttons allow you to see a preview of your application from the screen. For instance, when you have configured your email you can see how many new emails are in your inbox.

Windows 8 Review - Start screen

Whilst the Start screen has been designed with touch in mind, it can be still be used with a mouse and keyboard but not as efficiently. The interface is quite a shift from previous versions and requires some learning in order to get the full benefits from it.

As we move away from traditional PCs and onto tablets and smartphones, working with the new Start screen will become increasingly necessary to use the new applications. The desktop has not completely disappeared, however the removal of the Start button has taken some getting used to. I imagine that the next version of Windows will likely integrate the apps and the Start screen further and negate the need for a separate desktop.

Windows 8 Review - Desktop Windows 8 Review - Desktop with Charms
Windows 8 Review - File Explorer Windows 8 Review - PC Settings

Many of Microsoft’s former Windows Live product offerings are making  reappearances in Windows 8 as apps.  Most notable apps from Microsoft include Mail, Photos, Messaging, Maps and SkyDrive, which come preinstalled. Windows 8 also introduces the Windows Store, similar to the Apple Store, where products can be obtained and if necessary purchased.

Windows 8 Review - News Windows 8 Review - Windows Store
Windows 8 Review - Weather Windows 8 Review - Sidebar
Windows 8 Review - Mail Windows 8 Review - Messaging
Windows 8 Review - Games Windows 8 Review - Music

 

Internet Explorer has significantly changed in appearance, providing almost the entire screen to web browsing. At first, there is a strangeness to this, especially with the missing links to go forward and backward in pages. Fortunately, the traditional desktop app is also still available for use if required.

Windows 8 Review - Internet Explorer

There is also an upgraded version of Windows Defender, which integrates the anti-malware and anti-virus software Security Essentials into the operating system. I would still suggest purchasing a third-party internet security software, however this is a good start when you first set up your computer. Microsoft has also introduced SmartScreen filtering, which provides warnings about unsafe websites and apps.

Windows 8 Review - Windows Defender

If you are a tablet or smart phone user, Windows 8 will enable you to perform activities at ease through the touch based interface, however for the desktop user I am not quite convinced of the benefits. I think time will tell whether Microsoft has embarked on the right journey or made a mistake.

If you are unsure whether your system will work with Windows 8, please contact us for an appointment to identify whether your computer is compatible and capable. We can also help suggest suitable upgrades or replacements to bring you up to date with Microsoft’s latest operating system.

 

Flavours

Microsoft has again simplified the editions of Windows 8, as a result of the confusion users have had previously had with many different editions available. The main difference I have identified between the “Windows 8 Pro” and Windows 8 Pro Pack” is the inclusion of Media Centre in the later edition.

However, if you are running Windows 8 Pro, for a limited time you can obtain a free upgrade to the Windows 8 Media Centre Pack that will enable you to watch and record live TV (a compatible TV tuner card is required). The product key will be sent via email and then is required to be activated on your computer.

 

Pricing

The estimated retail pricing for Windows 8 is currently quite competitive with some retailers offering significant discounts or bonuses.

The current prices (listed below) are for the introductory period concluding on 31 January 2013, and retailers that I have spoken to have advised the price are likely to change at this time:

 Edition Full version Upgrade Physical Upgrade Download
Windows 8 Pro N/A $68 $40
Windows 8 Pro Pack N/A $68 $40

N/A – This product is yet to be released.

This pricing information is based on Microsoft’s Estimated Retail Pricing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Where can I find more information on Windows 8′s new features?

Answer:  The official Microsoft Windows 8 website (link opens in new window) provides a large amount of information, including promotional articles and videos on the new features in Windows 8.

 

Question: I am looking to upgrade to Windows 8, but don’t know if my computer will be able to support it. How can I find out?

Answer: Microsoft  advises that any computer built in the Windows Vista and Windows 7 timeframe will be able to run any version of Windows 8 without requiring upgrading. However, we recommend that at least 2GB of memory is available on the computer.

Also, you need to check the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant (link opens in new window) to ensure the software installed on your computer is compatible. You can also see the Windows Compatibility Centre (link opens in new window).

 

Question: I am having troubles running Norton 360 on my Windows 8 computer. Is there an upgrade or patch available?

Answer: A new version of Norton 360, Norton 360 2013, is now available for download and installation from the Norton Upgrade Centre (link opens in new window).

 

Question: Where can I download more themes?

Answer: The Personalisation Gallery (link opens in new window) contains a range of themes, backgrounds and gadgets which you can visit to download.

 

Question: Where can I find additional product reviews and training material?

Answer: We recommend you check out Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows (link opens in new window) for a complete product review. CyberGuru is also prepared to offer training to clients who require such a service.

 

Question: Is my hardware/software going to work with Windows 8?

Answer: As mentioned in our review above, we have found Windows 8 to be much more reliable and compatible with most existing hardware and software! However, if you want to be certain it will, check out the Windows Compatibility Centre (link opens in new window). Some internet security software, such as Norton 360 and Norton Internet Security, may require updates. See the similar questions raised above.

 

Question: I am looking for a trial version of Microsoft Office 2013. Where can I get it?

Answer: This isn’t a Windows 8 question, but we’ll answer it anyway! You can participate in the Microsoft Office 2013 Consumer Preview which is currently a trial. For more information, please see the Microsoft Office 2013 Consumer Preview (link opens in new window).

 

Question: Can you recommend any reference books I can use to learn Windows 8?

Answer: We are a fan of the “For Dummies” series of books, but Microsoft Press is currently offering free sample chapters of some of their Windows 8 books to get you started at the Microsoft Press Blog (link opens in new window). You should also review the e-book available, Introducing Windows 8: An Overview for IT Professionals (link opens in new window).

 

Question: I recently bought a new computer. How can I receive a free upgrade advertised to Windows 8?

Answer:  Details of the recently announced Windows 8 Upgrade Offer are available for your consideration. If you buy a new computer with Windows 7 between now and 31 January 2013, you can receive a downloadable copy of Windows 8 Pro for $15 (an additional charge applies for a DVD if required).

You can read the Windows Team Blog (link opens in new window) for further information about the Windows 8 Upgrade Offer and you can register and order the Windows 8 Upgrade Offer (link opens in new window) before 28 February 2013.

Whilst there is a significant change to the look and feel in Windows 8, I believe that it would be beneficial purchasing this as I believe the final price for the product is likely to be signficantly more after the conclusion of the program.