Musings on the Windows 8 Developer Preview

Mike Halsey MVP
Jan 7, 2012
Updated • Jan 7, 2012
Windows, Windows 8

As a Microsoft Windows MVP and a Windows author I've got a busy year ahead of me.  I've got several Windows 8 books to write for starters, all to be out during 2012 so I really do need to know Windows 8 backwards.  The Building Windows 8 blog has been extremely useful in this respect with the level of detail that the development teams at microsoft have gone into but then there's the first hands-on version, the Windows 8 Developer Preview.

This was released, as you'll remember, back in mid-September at Microsoft's BUILD developer conference.  The aim was to get people excited about writing apps for the new operating system's 'Metro' interface.  With the Developer Preview having been made publicly available at the time it was downloaded in huge numbers and it's been interesting reading blogs from tech journalists who have been using it in anger.

So, with Windows 8 books to write, webcasts to give on it and talks already underway you'd have thought that I too would have been using the Developer Preview in anger, right?  Actually I do still have a copy installed on my Windows tablet, but only because I use my HP TouchPad for day to day use.  I did have a copy installed in a dual-boot system on my main PC, but soon got rid of it as I never used it, and I did have a copy installed in a virtual machine on my laptop, but never used that either and so it too is now gone.

If I need to get right under the hood of Windows 8 then, why haven't I been using the Developer Preview?  There are several answers to this, the first is that the preview is, and many people have commented on this, pretty unusable for day to day work.  At the moment and especially without a working Windows app store there's not much you can do in Metro and, as such, you need to spend all your time on the desktop.  This causes problems too because many of the features that will make working on the desktop pleasurable weren't finished in time for the preview.

Then there's all the things under the hood of the operating system.  We've been reading a steady stream of articles from Microsoft since September on new and sometimes even cool features coming for the beta.  None of these exist within the Developer Preview and to assume that for features such as Hyper-V which can be unlocked in the preview already have their final interfaces is perhaps a little foolish.  There really isn't that much in the Developer Preview and it's quite devoid of anything new or changed outside of Metro.

I'm looking forward to downloading, installing and using the full Windows 8 beta in anger.  I have already decided that I will blow away the copy of Windows 7 on my work touch-enabled laptop and use exclusively Windows 8 on the device.  As for my desktop I'll see how things go.  With the beta however we can assume that Windows 8 will be feature-locked when the beta is released next month, and so this will be the time to start exploring the features and taking screenshots (though these might change slightly).

You might be of the same mind as myself regards the preview, in that you too might have tried it briefly, got bored of it and gone back to Windows 7 until something more stable and complete comes along.  For all the bloggers, writers and authors who say they've been using the Developer Preview in anger, I do wonder how productive they've been and how much they've actually been using it.

Suffice to say, the beta will be a very different beast and very complete.  I've been reserving judgement over Windows 8 until I see it, in the same way I have during the alpha and beta programmes for previous versions of Windows.  It might be genuinely exciting, it will certainly be extremely interesting but one thing is for sure...  It will for the very first time be properly usable.


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  1. Roman ShaRP said on January 9, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Because I’m part of a development team working on app for Win8, I have to work in Win 8 much more than I would want.

    Well… it’s my job I’m paid for.

    For now I didn’t dig very deep, and I said many times that Metro is ugly and annoying… but some of my desktop software I installed – works and so far I have no good reason for shouting and screaming ;)

    We’ll see.

    I’ll write a comment if I get any problems I find worth it.

  2. Threshold said on January 9, 2012 at 12:15 am

    I have to say I am not that excited about 8 but since I have to reinstall 7 I might give 8 beta a try.

    Anyone knows if you install 8 you will be able to upgrade to the final build or the final build will require a reinstall?


    P.s. Martin no game this Saturday???
    I want my game! ;D

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Well if it is like Windows 7, you won’t have an official upgrade option available. There have been workarounds though to upgrade from RC to final.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 9, 2012 at 12:24 am

      I completely forgot about it, sorry for that. Pretty busy playing Swtor right now ;)

      1. Threshold said on January 9, 2012 at 5:15 pm

        Umh allrighty you better come out with a good game next Saturday. ;)

        What about my Windows 8 question?

        Anyone knows?

  3. Nirab Sarma said on January 8, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Windows 8 is going to become another Vista. Well, I don’t want this to happen, but what to do. Microsoft has completely messed up everything. They forgot why people use windows computer. replacing the old user interface with this metro UI is the biggest mistake. Ok, it looks good. But only looks doesn’t matter. The Productivity aspect of Windows 8 is terrible. I, as a webmaster used Windows 8 just for a couple of days ( Only to write a few articles about Windows 8 on my blog ). Windows 8 is only for those who want a fancy looking user interface, and I guess I am not one of them…..

  4. JMGG said on January 8, 2012 at 6:07 am

    I’m not sure why you’re saying it’s unusable for day to day work. There is a super tiny amount of things that I’ve found to not work on it, and none of them are work related (i.e. old games).

  5. Martin Brinkmann said on January 7, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    The Developer Preview was intended for developers mostly and I agree with you that the beta will aim at a wider audience as it will offer features that the preview did not offer.

    I’m still not convinced though that the beta will be fundamentally different from the preview build. I’m giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here but I’m fearing that they will ship the operating system this way even on desktops and without options to disable or bypass Metro. I hope they do not as I would not put Windows 8 on my desktop PC otherwise.

    1. Pete. said on January 8, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Hi Martin.
      Has there been any word as to Microsoft running a public beta as they did with 7?

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 8, 2012 at 11:56 am

        There will be a public beta as far as I know, but it is not clear yet when it will be made available.

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