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Windows 8 install and test drive: Welcome to Microsoft's brave new world

Loyd Case | Aug. 16, 2012
I’m writing this on an Asus Zenbook UX31A at a Peet’s Coffee on Steven’s Creek Boulevard in the heart of Silicon Valley. In an adjacent table a man and woman have papers spread out on a table, talking in hushed tones, with the word “Apple” occasionally audible.

Hardware web pages replace the Windows 7 hardware property page. The look varies, depending on how much work the OEM puts into making the page useful and attractive. For example, the page for the HP Photosmart printer offered up lots of information, as shown below.

On the other hand, the hardware page for the Onkyo TX-NR809 network attached A/V receiver is certainly not the epitome of elegant page design, as you can see here.

Window 8 also includes Microsoft's Smartglass application. Smartglass is a way to control certain aspects of the Xbox 360 dashboard using Windows 8.

While Smartglass is really tuned to work effectively with Windows 8 tablets, connecting up with the laptop and navigating the Xbox 360 on the network was pretty simple. You do need to have Xbox Companion enabled in the Xbox 360's settings if you want to use Smartglass; it's off by default. You can use Smartglass to navigate the Xbox 360's user interface and even launch games.

Bedtime Dreams

I've clearly only touched the surface by trying to give you a feel for what it's like to use Windows 8 and associated applications. I've yet to install any full-on desktop games. That will come later, as we explore using Windows 8 on desktop PCs. It's worth taking a moment to recap the day.

It begins with a full installation of Windows 8 (not an upgrade install.)

After navigating minor headaches like the inability to install when GPT partitions are present and having to hunt down proper touchpad drivers, the installation was pretty smooth. During that process, I also connected to my home network, configured the laptop into the home group, and proceeded to install applications.

This is also where I personalized the system, which included bringing up the Windows 8 settings screen. This bears a strong resemblance to the Xbox 360 control panel.

A variety of applications was installed, including Microsoft Office 2013 preview, Google Chrome, Techsmith's Snagit (for taking screen shots), and a number of apps from the Window Store. At that point, it was time for a little caffeine boost, so I headed over to a nearby coffee shot, bought a mocha, and started to write.

Returning home, I played a few games, checked out some social media, and connected to the Xbox 360 to see how Smartglass actually works. Now I'm sitting down to wrap up this first day with Microsoft's shiny new OS.

Final Thoughts

The integration with SkyDrive, both within Windows and the Office 2013 preview, is excellent, and a more robust experience than running under Windows 8. Most users should have no problems being productive.

I also discovered that Microsoft is pretty serious about using Windows 8 as a platform for "monetization." (I really hate that term.) You're given multiple opportunities to plunk down your money for music, videos, apps, and other virtual goods.


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