With all the negativity around Windows 8 I've not been in a rush to try it. Being a Mac user I already have a great OS and last week's upgrade to Mountain Lion again reaffirmed my allegiance to the Apple ecosystem.
Apple got a lot right with iOS, the security, the simplicity and the app ecosystem. We've seen a lot of these features ported back into OS X in Lion and Mountain Lion. Microsoft is going for a more radical approach of designing an almost brand new interface called Metro and making it the heart of Windows 8.
A lot of the criticism of Windows 8 revolves around Metro and how it's central to the OS, yet does so much differently from previous versions of Windows. We've seen hints of Metro in Windows Phone and in the Xbox interface which I've never liked - it's small annoyances like giving a four way input controller the option to go 6 ways.
Installation was very similar to Windows 7 and took around 20mins through Parallels.
Once rebooted you enter a few details and you're presented with the Metro desktop.
On the bottom left there is a link to the desktop, this takes you to a desktop that is very similar to Windows 7 but without a start menu. You can get back into Metro at any time via the windows key (cmd in Parallels).
Metro integrates with Facebook, Live Messenger, SkyDrive, Xbox Live and a number of other services. Feeds for News (below), Weather, Maps, Travel and Finance are automatically included by default.
Any additional programs you install that would normally appear in the Start Menu are added to the Metro Interface instead. All settings that were previously in control panel are integrated with Metro.
Metro is quick to use but takes a bit of adjusting to get use to, I like how you can easily get to it at any time through the Windows key. By rearranging icons within Metro you can quickly customise it to your work flow. As more developers integrate with Metro I imagine it will get stronger and stronger.
I will admit that I'm a fan of Metro, it's a refreshing change for Windows and coming from OS X it's good to see the simplicity that Windows often lacked shining through.
With Windows 7 and XP It was hard to argue the benefits, in the past ten years we've seen so many great new features in OS X, from time machine, dashboard, mission control, expose and spot light yet you couldn't really say the same for Windows. With Windows 8 Microsoft had to try something different and whilst some parts work well with other parts don't.
Back in 2001 when Apple released OS X there was uproar, OS X did things differently, in a lot of cases it did things worse than OS 9 and did a lot less. Many of the Apple faithful resisted the move for years, yet today could anyone argue that those hard decisions were not for the best?
Microsoft is at the same cross roads now, it knows it has to do something different to stay relevant and keep up with the competition, it has to make hard decisions that it knows will upset some of its core audience.
Yet hopefully what will come from it is a much smarter, simpler OS, it will take time and I imagine at least another Windows release but the changes Microsoft are making now will set them up for the next decade, to compete with the likes of Apple and Google.
We've already seen parts of the puzzle come into place with the launch of Outlook.com, Skydrive and Metro. It's a massive gamble and one that I hope works out for Microsoft.