The desktop portion of Windows 8 feels largely unchanged from previous versions, with some notable exceptions. The start button isnt present in the Consumer Preview. In Windows Explorer, Microsoft has introduced a version of the ribbon interface already present in other Microsoft products. Those who hate the ribbona significant population, given the comments about it on Microsofts official Building Windows 8 blogcan perhaps take consolation in how Windows engineers have attempted to streamline it. Despite those tweaks, the desktops placement behind the new start screen makes it feel like something of an afterthought. For tablet users and those who only want Windows to run select apps, thats probably fine. It remains to be seen how power users will react to this variation.During a keynote discussion at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in October 2010, a moderator asked Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about the companys riskiest bet. The next release of Windows, he replied. Around the same time, now-departed Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie posted a long note on his personal blog in which he described a coming inflection point that would bring a future dominated by devices connected to the cloud. Those devices, Ozzie added, would take forms beyond traditional desktops and laptops: At this juncture, given all that has transpired in computing and communications, its important that all of us do precisely what our competitors and customers will ultimately do: close our eyes and form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might actually look like. Microsofts response to that post-PC world is finally upon us. If the companys bets on a more mobile-centric interface pay off, then it could sell hundreds of millions of copies of Windows 8. If not, then it has the tech-world version of New Coke on its hands. Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter
Certainly Microsoft has designed Windows 8 to play well on a wide variety of machines. System recommendations for the Consumer Preview include a device with a 1GHz (or faster) processor, 1GB RAM (32-bit) or 2GB RAM (64-bit), 16GB available hard-disk space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit), and a DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 (Windows Display Driver Model 1.0) or higher driver.