I’ve been spending some time with the Windows 8 preview which you can read about and download here.
To be honest the new Metro front end is what I was really interested in, with its new Start screen. Coming from a design perspective, its minimalist features and UI animations are refreshing. The Start page acts like a hub for your digital life, with social network integration, photos, video, music, and you can add more utilities and apps from the Windows App Store. Its minimal nature also makes it difficult to navigate and operate as buttons are often absent. In fact I had to Google (sorry Microsoft) how to shut down! Its not obvious, as are most of the normal operations. Microsoft have worked hard to produce something different and it’s succeeded. But it has also asked users to relearn how to operate a PC. Perhaps new PCs will be more like tablets and mobile phones on which hardware buttons are assigned to tasks like shut down, sleep, etc. There’s also a definite sense that you will want to be swiping and tapping screens with this design.