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CNET First Look
Windows 8 beta unifies desktop and tablet--but will people like it?The first Windows 8 beta is most impressive, mixing a unique touch interface with a traditional Windows approach that's driven by social and sharing. The big question is, will people like it?
Hi. I'm Seth Rosenblatt and today we're checking out Microsoft most ambitious operating system yet. The Windows 8 Beta, also known as the consumer preview is in fact (rocking age?) traditional Windows core. With the metro-tiled interface, things that Microsoft has created the first unified OS for both PCs and tablets and it's got to think to back it up. Windows 8 is big, gutsy and there's a whole heck of a lot to show you. It may even freak you out just a little bit. That's okay. You may not like it but trust you're gonna wanna see this. There are 2 big changes to Windows. The first and most obvious and the one that's most likely to hurt your brain just a little bit is the touch interface. Windows 8 is all kinds of touchy feeling. After logging in, the first thing you'll see is this new start screen. We saw a rough version of this back in September but now the tiles are interactive and they update in real time. More in that in the sec. Here is how you navigate around, swipe in from the right edge and the Windows 8 charms will appear. They have include the instantly recognizable search, share, start to return to the start screen, devices and settings. You'll see the launch at least 1 app, you can swipe in from the left edge to return to the last open app, finish the zoom out and get a global view of your app groups. You can also create new custom groups and move apps around. A quick swipe in and then back out on the left edge shows you some nails of recently used apps as well as your start screen at the bottom. So yes, the start button is hidden but no, it's not really that hard to get to. It takes about the same effort to get to the start screen from either edge. The left and right edges are for settings so the top and bottom are for the apps themselves. In Internet Explorer for example, this means that your location bar is at the bottom and your tabs are on top. On the start screen, you can get a list view of all your apps. In mail, you can set up accounts including non-Microsoft ones like Gmail, create folders, sync and more. It's a little confusing to note that app settings will often appear under the settings charm even when most settings are accessible from the top or bottom edges. So clearly, there are some work flaw snags that Microsoft hasn't quite worked out yet. So what's that 2nd big change? Windows 8 is such a schmoozer. It's are you the most social desktop OS out there. From the log in screen where you can see your calendar and e-mail notifications and said other apps to appear, to the real-time updates to your tiles on your start screen, Windows 8 is anything but a static input-only experience. Search is global and includes data from all your apps that has activated the search API hooks. Of course, as in Windows, you can easily tweak those settings. Part of being social is syncing and Windows 8 is sync-happy. Connect to Microsoft account such as Hotmail or Live and you'll be able to sync settings nearly instantaneously from one Windows 8 to another throwing the app syncing from the Windows store. You've got one heck of a mobilized system. Sky Drive will help you keep your file synced to. Okay, fine. You can poke it with a stick. How does it work with a mouse and keyboard? Simply connect your traditional interface peripherals and bam, scroll bar. The screen automatically knows when your mouse is pushing one of the edges and will scroll you through your groups. Hotkeys got a lot of love in Windows 8. All of the combos from Windows 7 work in Windows 8 even in the Metro interface. If you miss Windows 7 or just want the precision of the spreadsheet, you can jump to the familiar Windows 7 install desktop with the desktop tile. Notice that apps here can be designed to appear more like traditional Windows. So IE 10 in Metro is touchtacular while IE 10 in desktop mode looks like IE9 even though both IE10 skins are powered by the same engine and have the same features, short version, photo shop and other high-precision programs have nothing to worry about. Those are just 2 of the biggest changes in Windows 8 but there are tons more. Security gets a lot of attention and you can choose one of 3 log ins, password, PIN or set a picture log in, perfect for tablets. There's also stuff you likely to never encounter that's protecting you like trusted boot for double checking system integrity and smart screen to protect you from fishing and malware. There are features like refresh that will reinstall Windows 8 without deleting your data, multiple monitor support for showing start on one screen and the desktop on the other and more. Windows 8 is a heck of a Hail Mary pass that lands like Vista, Microsoft will be in world of trouble. It doesn't look like that's gonna happen though. Hardware makers are on board. (Redmund?) says developers are investing heavily in it and it's earning it's buzz because there's nothing quite like it out there. Windows is ready for you to touch it. Question is while waiting for the unified desktop mobile experience, have people already moved too much into mobile to care? For CNET, I'm Seth Rosenblatt with your first look at Windows 8 beta