Windows 8 is available on DVD in New Zealand for a limited time. Microsoft New Zealand executives said, at last Friday's launch of the new operating system, once the DVDs that went on shelves on Friday have sold out they won't be replenished. The only way to buy Windows 8 after the disks have gone will be as a download from Microsoft.com. Any computer running Windows XP with Service Pack 3 installed, Windows Vista or Windows 7 can download Windows 8 for $49.99.
It works with keyboard and mouse on computers with no touch-enabled hardware, and with a swipe of the finger on touch-enabled PCs and tablets.
When you run Windows 8's setup utility you get the choice of simply swapping your previous version of Windows with the new one while keeping all other applications and documents, or doing a clean installation which wipes everything off your PC. I chose the latter on my HP Pavilion dv6 notebook, because a clean installation gets rid of any fragments of files no longer used in the previous installation.
Within half an hour Windows 8 was installed and a short introductory video was prompting me to point my mouse into the corner to bring up the five Windows 8 Charms integral to the new software's operation: Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings.
Once I'd pointed my mouse in the corner, Windows 8's new Start screen, was sparking on my screen.
It's based on the Windows Phone 7 operating system I love so much, so I am already biased towards Windows 8.
I had run the two free test versions of Windows 8 Microsoft had released, and seen behind the scenes during a one-day media briefing in Amsterdam in June, so there was little to surprise me. But since this was a version of Windows 8 that won't expire, unlike the trial version, I began customising it to make it my own.
First things first. Setting up my Hotmail in the mail app was a cinch, as was setting up my Xtra account. Since the mail app does not support the antiquated Post Office Protocol, I needed to select the Messaging Application Programming Interface option before inputting my Xtra email address and password.
All of my contacts from my Hotmail address book appeared in the People app and appointments in my Hotmail calendar appeared on the Calendar tile.
Documents and pictures saved to SkyDrive, Microsoft's online virtual hard disk drive that comes with Hotmail, Windows Live and Outlook accounts, were instantly accessible.
I set the weather app for Hamilton, and another for my home county in the UK, so that I know what the weather's doing when I talk to my folks on Skype. And I also downloaded video call software Skype from the Windows 8 Store, on the Start screen, which has been given a Windows 8 overhaul.
I was disappointed when I clicked on the Desktop tile, which took me to the traditional Windows Desktop, to learn that the Gadgets have gone. They used to provide world clocks and live weather information in a similar way to the new Start interface, so I suppose they would have been a bit of a double up.
While on the desktop, from where you can run traditional Windows programs known in the IT industry as legacy software, I also downloaded the traditional version of Skype from Skype.com.
While there I downloaded my favourite Windows Live Essentials programs, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker, before moving on to Microsoft Office 2010 (there's a new version out next year), Adobe Photoshop Elements 10, Adobe Premiere Elements 10, Roxio Creator 2012 and some essential components of Adobe Creative Suite 6. One of Windows 8's biggest selling points is that it will run anything designed for Windows XP, Vista and 7 before it.
To switch back to the Start screen I pressed the Windows button.
Everything I installed on the Windows 8 Desktop was replicated on the Start menu, which I could organise to appear any way I liked.
Windows Media Player was nowhere to be seen until I slipped in a CD, at which point it appeared and I pinned it to my desktop taskbar. To get it on my Start screen, I had to navigate my mouse to the bottom right of the screen and bring up the search option and search for it.
I discovered Microsoft has removed DVD playback from Media Player and made Media Center, which will also play DVDs and record TV if you have an internal TV tuner or an external USB one, a paid for app. Roxio Creator 2012 includes an app that plays DVDs anyway, so that is all right.
- © Fairfax NZ News