Microsoft Takes a Leap of Faith With Windows 8

Just when you thought it was safe to return to your desktop, Microsoft spoils it all by introducing another version of Windows. Today, on leap day, Microsoft takes a leap by unleashing the Windows 8 Consumer Preview edition on an unsuspecting public. Whether it's a leap forward, backward, or straight into a bottomless pit is the question everyone is now asking.

You can download your very own copy. Good luck.

Admittedly, I've counted out Microsoft before. Yet Windows 7 was an impressive rebound after the 30,000-foot freefall that was Windows Vista. Microsoft took a spatula, scraped up the grisly remains, and packaged it into a workmanlike OS that does its job and gets out of the way, as any good OS should.

But Win 8 is different. This is not another hierarchical-folders-and-menus-hey-we-renamed-the-icons-in-Control-Panel-yet-again rehash. What Microsoft is calling the "reimagined Windows" is really the FrankenOS -- half mobile, half desktop, all terror -- featuring the Metro Live Tiles and apps of its surprisingly unsucky Windows Phone 7 interface.

Since I am admitting things, let me also admit I really like Live Tiles on my WinPho Mango handset ("he likes it, he really likes it"). My readers overwhelmingly agree. Doing the Mango tango on a tablet seems like it could work well -- unless Win8 turns out to be a power and processor hog. Translating the touch-friendly Metro to a desktop? That's less clear.

The very early reviews strike a positive note.

MSNBC's Wilson Rothman:

So far, it's living up to its promise as a touch-friendly "reimagining" of Windows.... Windows 8 holds the kind of promise of progress not seen in a Windows operating system since the launch of XP.

For Gizmodo's Matt Honan, it's love at first sight:

It's clear that Windows 8 is going to be a remarkable, daring update to the venerable OS. It is a departure from nearly everything we've known Windows to be. You will love it, or hate it.

I love it.

ABC News' Joanna Stern is less head over heels, thanks in part to a few bugs in the prerelease edition. She gives it a thumbs-up nonetheless:

Overall, I'm extremely impressed with the next version of Windows... Windows 8 isn't only a brave leap for Microsoft and from the desktop we are all so familiar with, but an exciting one.

Remember, Vista also got mostly positive notices when it appeared. Technologizer's Harry McCracken did a nice 20/20 hindsight roundup of the top Vista reviews. At the time, tech journos were saying Vista is "the best version of Windows that Microsoft has produced," "both evolutionary and revolutionary," and (yes) "a great leap forward."

We all know what happened afterward. It's not how far you leap that matters, it's what happens when you land. Will Win8 go splat? Too soon to tell. But it ought to be interesting to watch, provided you're at a safe distance.

What's your take on Win8? Post your own reviews below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Microsoft takes a leap of faith with Windows 8," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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