With the Windows 8 Release Preview finally available, Microsoft has taken a major step toward putting its chips on the table for its biggest gamble ever. While we may start seeing some of the hardware that will run Windows 8 as early as next week, we know enough about the operating system itself to say what's surprisingly good and what needs help, STAT.
What we liked so far:
The Metro interface comes at app icons from a different angle than Apple and Google. Live tiles are actually useful, updating the stock ticker concept for a modern, mobile world. You can create tiles for individual e-mail accounts, or follow updates from specific contacts, and it presents a nearly non-existent learning curve.
Semantic zoom is the ability in Windows 8 to access different levels of content via zooming. On the Start screen, zooming out gives you a bird's eye view of your tile groups. In an app, you can zoom out to see different kinds of related content -- in the Bing Travel app, you'll see categories like Today, Featured Destinations, Panoramas, and Articles.