I recently installed the Windows 8 consumer preview on a virtual machine and thought I would post my initial reaction.
I actually like the new approach to the start screen and having information update in real-time and I think the UI will be really nice with a touchscreen. However there are drawbacks to this approach. I am mostly talking from a perspective of using a keyboard and mouse.
- When using a mouse, I realize I can hover in the bottom left and the button will appear, but this takes more time than simply clicking a button. Please just give me the option to show a button. The hover just takes too much time. I've also inadvertently launched IE from the desktop twice now because I hovered to bring up the button, then thought I clicked the button but the click went through to the pinned Internet Explorer icon. It might be possible to pin a short-cut to the start screen on the taskbar...
- I'm running the preview in a virtual machine and since my virtual machine display is itself in a Window, it's actually relatively hard to move the mouse to the corners of the display without going into my host environment. This will cause problems with users using Remote Desktop.
- Once I new about the "hot" areas, it became usable, but it's not obvious. It reduces the number of UI elements on the screen, but new users will have trouble.
- I know that I can click the Windows button to bring up the start screen, but again, since I'm using Remote Desktop to a virtual machine, the Windows button is keyed to my host machine. I might not mind the lack of start button as much when I'm using it as my main OS.
- The buttons being so big makes it nice for a touchscreen because you have more click-able area, but when using a mouse, it winds up taking much longer because you now have to move your mouse a much greater distance. e.g. you might have to move across the entire screen instead of just a few inches.
- I'm a developer and I use a lot of programs in my day-to-day life. By a lot, I mean I have about 8 programs I run every day (Visual Studio, 3 different browsers, Outlook, Messenger, SQL Management Studio, Notepad, etc) plus a large number of others that i run situationally. The old start menu gave me a way to organize those programs by function and was pretty good at simply listing them all. Everyone seems to be moving towards Search to find your app, but if you don't remember the name, you're basically browsing for the right app so you want to browse by category and/or simply view everything you have so you can find what you're looking for.
- The buttons on the start screen are not very visually distinctive. I can appreciate the look you're going for and seeing the screenshots, I really liked it, but as I said on item #3, I use a lot of different programs and having to search through them all when all the buttons look alike is not a prospect I look forward to.
- I still haven't figured out how to turn it off.