Our American sister site CNET has been granted hands-on time with Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system, running on a tablet. It's a radical departure from the existing Windows interface, and is built with apps and touchscreens in mind.

Click through the screenshots above to check out the new look, and read on to find out what the kids are saying about this next-gen OS.

App-happy

Microsoft is finally getting with the times, slapping its colourfully tiled 'Metro' interface onto Windows 8. We've seen (and enjoyed) this interface on Windows Phone mobiles before, and the idea is to make the operating system work better with apps, and play better with finger-poking touchscreen devices.

Apple has already blended its mobile and desktop operating systems, feeding features from iOS into Mac OS X Lion, and introducing the Mac App Store. Microsoft is going one step further though -- it wants Windows 8 to work equally well on tablets and desktop computers.

Microsoft has shown off Windows Store, which is the app shop where you'll be finding and downloading new apps. Like Apple, Microsoft will be regulating the apps that make it onto the Store.

That means a bit less freedom, but should ensure that apps are of a generally higher quality -- swathes of rubbish apps are a curse of the Android Market, which has no such restrictions. We also hear that Microsoft will let you download trial versions of apps before buying them.

Split personality

The Metro interface looks incredibly slick, with a gorgeous lock screen. Swiping from the right of the screen brings up extra options, including a Windows button that jumps you to the homescreen, while dragging from the left let's you split screen two apps at once.

There is a risk though -- we know that beneath the trendy Metro interface the traditional Windows desktop is lurking, looking very similar to Windows 7 apart from a new interface tweaks.

Windows 7 isn't particularly touchscreen friendly, so Microsoft wants tablet users to stick to the Metro interface for the most part, and desktop users to use the more traditional Windows system.

We expect switching between the two interfaces will feel quite uncomfortable -- one is a sleek, minimalist platform built for chunky finger poking, while the other is a monstrous hive of options, menus, file systems and infinite buttons.

Will tablet users be happy to cruise around in Metro mode, knowing that the old Windows interface is lurking below like a fearsome piranha?

We don't know when Microsoft is planning on unleashing Windows 8, but we'd wager there's time for Apple and Google to respond before it makes it to shops. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Are you excited about Windows 8? Or have you sworn fealty to Apple's Mac OS X? Let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.

The new Windows 8 Start Screen.
A shot of Internet Explorer 10, optimised for touch screens.
Here's what the lock screen looks like.
Here's where all your images from Facebook, Flickr and the like will live.
Windows 8 will have a QWERTY on-screen keyboard.
It will also have a 'thumb keyboard' to make it easier to type two-handed while gripping the edge of a tablet.
You will be able to display a normal Windows screen on one monitor while displaying the touch interface on another.
Task Manager gets a long-awaited redesign. We've been waiting for this for a long time.
The process manager also gets a new lick of paint.
If you look at a website that offers an app, you are automatically offered the chance to switch to that instead.
This is Visual Studio 2011. Don't all rush at once.

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