The release code of Windows 8 is finally available for subscribers of the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet to download and install, and V3 has had a brief look at the release to manufacturing (RTM) build of the platform to see what is new.
For those wondering what has changed in the shipping code of Windows 8, the short answer is not much, apart from a few cosmetic changes and some background art choices plus lock screen designs for users to personalise the way the display looks on their PC.
Those changes that have been introduced since the Release Preview version of Windows 8 was made available include the "Do Not Track" privacy setting enabled by default in the Internet Explorer 10 browser, and a Bing app for internet searches added to the start menu.
As far as most users are concerned, the experience of using Windows 8 RTM has thus changed little since the first preview version of the platform was released.
The new-style user interface has been much written about, and is a considerable change from the desktop that users have grown accustomed to in Windows versions right up to Windows 7.
Formerly known as "Metro-style" until very recently, this follows the design of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, with the Start screen displaying live application tiles that include notifications and updates.
As most readers will now be aware, the user interface is designed primarily for touch-screen control on a tablet, not just when launching apps by touching their live tile, but also by using gestures where users might have used the mouse buttons previously, such as swiping in from the right edge of the screen to bring up a menu of options.
Existing Windows applications are relegated to the desktop, a separate environment accessed via a tile on the Start menu, where they retain the traditional look and feel. However, the Aero Glass effect is now gone.
We are not yet convinced that the new user interface will prove to be a hit with users rather than hated, but a great deal hangs on the success or otherwise of the new system.
The Windows 8 RTM code has supposedly been cleaned up by Microsoft to improve performance, but we did not notice any perceptible difference between this version and the pre-release builds.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the gesture-based user interface really does feel "fast and fluid", to quote Microsoft's own phrase.
One thing that did concern us is that IE 10 crashed several times while browsing during our hands-on tests, which does not bode well for the reliability of Windows 8, considering we were using a fresh install of the release version.
While the Windows 8 RTM does not contain many surprises from the pre-release versions, the platform as a whole introduces a great many new features compared with earlier editions of Windows such as Windows 7. We'll be looking over these in greater depth in a full review of Windows 8 in the near future.
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