So I have been installing new builds of Windows since NT 3.1 Beta 1 so I can’t help myself! After downloading Windows 8 Developer Preview I  of course had to give it a go on my ASUS EP121. It’s a full touch and pen slate computer that is one of the test devices in the Windows 8 labs. If it wasn’t for the Windows team admitting they were using my exact machine I would have probably been going the Hyper-V route. However, my horoscope said it was a good day so I figured what the heck, let’s go for the full install on real hardware. Below are the notes and raw feedback I took while doing the clean install. Take them as you will.

After creating a bootable USB from the Windows 8 Developer Preview ISO, I plugged my USB drive in and said “I’m feeling lucky.” After restarting the computer, the machine booted off the USB and the install started. I LOVED how the install recognized the touch and pen digitizers on the ASUS. Other than the power cord the only thing I had plugged into the system was the USB boot drive. It was pretty cool to walk through the install with my tablet pen in hand. When installing Windows 7 on this same machine I had to have a USB hub plugged in to get my mouse, keyboard, and bootable Win7 USB drive working.

As per the documentation, I chose a clean install and let the installer do it’s magic. Everything worked great and I have to give major kudos to the Microsoft lawyers for letting the first sentence in the EULA say

Make the lawyers happy by reading this carefully. (There won’t be a quiz later)

The new setup experience went smooth and I loved how I could use the pen or on screen keyboard for entering the machine account as well as setting up the wireless network. All the devices on the machine were recognized and there was no need to download any drivers.

Just to make my life fun, I decided to join the machine to my domain after getting the initial OS installed. The process was exactly the same as it’s been in Vista and Windows 7. The only difference is that in Windows 8, you have to click the Control Panel tile, More Settings button, in the Metro UI as it’s not available from the Start menu any more.

As I still did not have a keyboard or mouse connected to the ASUS EP121, I was able to do all the operations with either the on screen keyboard or the pen. In both cases I’ve found them to be far better than I expected. When connecting to shares or entering product keys for Office the pen and onscreen keyboard worked great.

My first order of business after getting the OS installed was to get my slate computer usable in my business setting. At Wintellect we use Microsoft Office Online (what is now Office 365, but we haven’t been upgraded yet). That means the first application you install is the Sign On application. What I found neat was that the Sign In application needed .NET 3.5 so that triggered Windows 8 to add a .NET 3.5 as a feature and automatically apply all updates to it. Once that was complete, I could installed the Sign In application and life was good.

As Visual Studio 11 is already on the machine, the only other set of applications I need is the ubiquitous Microsoft Office 2010 so I can get email, write documents, and have access to my beloved OneNote. That install went smooth and life is good.

Disclaimer: The following is based off 120 minutes of using the computer. My opinion will probably change as I get more experience with the new UI.

Once I got the machine setup and working I was looking forward to digging in and seeing the new Metro UI. However, I found no matter how I tried, I have to be missing something because the Metro apps and approach don’t seem to be making me more productive or the computer more useful. I can totally see how the Metro UI would be wonderful and useful on an ARM tablet machine that you’re sitting on the couch using the computer to browse the web. It’s wonderful for that. However, for a desktop/development computer, all I do in Metro is poke at the Desktop or Control Panel links to get at real applications or configure the computer so Metro kind of gets in the way.

While they showed off a Metro mail client in the keynote, I can’t see how I would use something that limited to get real work done when I need to sit down and write a long email to a client with lots of details and screen shots. I realize this is a Developer Preview Release and I’ve been using Windows since version 2 so I may be set in my ways. I would love to be proven wrong but on first glance I’m having a hard time seeing how a tablet-like metaphor, that works fantastic for tablet mind you, extends to the desktop.

After a couple of hours using the computer, I found myself moving all my productivity application to the first “tile space” in Metro so I could get to them quickly after hitting the Windows key. While I love checking my stocks as much as the next investor, it’s not something I want to be doing every time I hit the Windows key. The same goes for the weather. I’m really struggling to try and like the Metro approach but something seems off to me. I feel the OS should better conform to the usage patterns of the device, or even ask the user when the first log in. If Windows 8 is installing on a SOC computer, the default should be light apps with web browsing and simple games as the default. It installing on a desktop/laptop machine it should conform to general productivity applications over the fluffier stuff.

These are just my initial thoughts from my initial usage. Granted, I have no idea what cool Metro apps we might be getting in the future. These thoughts are my raw thoughts dumped into this blog. Judge Metro on your scale. 

Please chime in with your thoughts on Windows 8 in the comments or your own blog and feel free to tell me how wrong I am about Metro.