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I’ve been running Windows 8 for some two weeks now, and there are a lot to like about the new operating system from Microsoft.

Here are the 10 things I like about Windows 8 that you can take advantage of, being using on a computer with or without a touch capable monitor.

1. Live Tiles

Live Tile is the heart and soul of the Windows 8 UI-Style. This interface isn’t foreign to most who are used to tablets and smart phones, but it adds to that.

It is essentially a combination of launch icons and widgets with live updates from the applications, and you can re-size, move, and group them as you like. Hitting the Start button now gets you to the live tiles instead of the old boring Start Menu, which is now a thing of the past.

2. No more Start Menu, Apps listed in full screen and searchable

Wait, did you say no more Start Menu?

That’s right, launching application is in fact quite a lot easier now. Just start typing the name of the application and this will activate the Search function. Applications both in displayed on live tiles and those that aren’t are instantly shown on the screen. A much more efficient way than navigating the old multi-tiered  program menu of old.

No more Start – Program Files – Application folder – Application exe

3. Integrated Search Function

The search function is now integrated in one location. The same search box that you use to look for application installed is also the search box you use to search within applications such as Bing, Map, Windows Store, or like the example above – recipes from Allrecipes application (I searched “chicken”).

This is a very neat feature and one that really made sense.

4. Embracing full screen

Most applications for Windows 8 now take advantage of the entire real estate of your computer screen. There is nothing that gets in the way, no maximize/minimize/close buttons, status bar, or even File menu. It is beautiful and actually very usable.

There is a multitasking bar on the left when you swipe from the edge of the screen from the left. This allows easy switching between applications.

Tasks such as closing a running application is achieved by dragging it down to the bottom of the screen, pretty ingenious. This takes a few minutes to get used to, and I find it pretty neat doing it with a mouse or by touch.

5. Running two apps in one screen, with one in “minimal” mode

There are many applications that will run in a smaller mode, one of which is the messaging application (which allows you to connect to MSN chat, facebook chat, etc). Simply drag the application to the side dock it there. You’ll then be able to use the “main” space to run another application, like the browser, or map, or really, anything you like.

Of course, you can still run other applications on the background, and switch them to the front with short cut keys or gestures.

6. Windows Store

Getting applications is now a click away to the Windows Store. All applications in the store are approved by Microsoft to ensure safety (malware/virus free) and certain standards.

Applications are separated into different categories, and they come with ratings, screen shots, and user reviews as well. I remember 10 years ago we used to go to CNET Download to find apps, this is like that, except 100 times better.

7. Background updates and installation of applications

Application installation and updates now runs quietly in the background (though you can bring it up to observe). There won’t be those pesky problems where you can’t install or update one while the other installation procedure is running, and no more going clicking through multiple steps just to get an app on the computer.

This also removes the problem of each application running a background application to check for updates (a problem that bloats up the machine eventually), everything is handled by Windows 8 natively.

8. Local applications

It is also good to see that many local players are now embracing Windows 8 and producing applications specifically for the platform. Some of these are

  • The Star – most popular English daily
  • iProperty – property search application
  • Mydin hypermarket
and more. These application takes advantage of the full screen functionality, integrated search, and background updates features described above. There’ll be more and more local players soon.

9. Full compatibility with all traditional Windows Applications

Windows 8 still runs all the “older” Windows applications. Your propriety engineering software? No problem, Photoshop? Lightroom? Chrome? Diablo 3?

All these application will still run just as well as they did on Windows 7. There is still a desktop with background image of your choice and a little clock on the right bottom corner when you run these applications.

In fact, you can even have desktop run as one of the applications with another running in “minimal” mode as described in feature 5.

10. SkyDrive

Windows 8 also comes with Microsoft SkyDrive. The cloud storage space that gives you free 7 GB online storage that you can use to store basically anything. Photos, videos, documents, and more.

The one thing that really sets SkyDrive apart from the competition is the way it works with Office documents. Files created with Office will be synchronized to SkyDrive automatically, you can then open them on your phone, tablets, or even another PC that you signed in with your credential. The same documents can also be shared with other users. In fact, SkyDrive also allows you to open and edit Office documents from a browser as well.

These are just some of the new features of Windows 8, there are many other improvements (such as super fast startup/shutdown and more) on the operating system that I think you should check out.

Those new touch enabled laptops, all-in-one, and hybrid laptop/tablets with Windows 8 are really cool, but even if you’re to upgrade a non-touch enabled computer to Windows 8, you’ll still get to enjoy all the features described above.

By the way, there’re also touch screen AIO (all in one) computers available. (something to ponder about…)

How do I get Windows 8?

Well, for those who bought Windows 7 PC from Jun 2 onwards, they can upgrade to Windows 8 with USD 14.99 (RM49.92). For more logon to www.windowsupgradeoffer.com. Pretty awesome offer if you ask me.

For those who has PC and would like to install or upgrade to Windows 8, they can purchase it at USD39.99 (RM122). For more, logon to windows.my.

Also, do note that these promos last till 31st January 2013 only, otherwise it cost RM885 to get one.

This has gotta be one of the most anticipated computer releases this year – the launch of Microsoft Windows 8.

My very first computing experience was with DOS, and later I was introduced to Windows 3.11 and eventually when I built my first computer, I installed Windows 95 on it. Like many others, I used quite a few variants of Windows over the years – Windows 95, 98, 98SE, Windows NT, Windows 2000, XP, and latest on my work machine – Windows 7.

Windows 8 official launch at Lowyat Plaza
Windows 8 official launch at Lowyat Plaza

I thought Windows 7 was quite a big leap forward from Vista, but after the launch, it was apparent that Windows 8 is at least as big a jump from Windows 3.11 to Windows 95, or maybe even bigger. It was impressive.

I had the good fortune to be invited to the launch event of Windows 8 at Lowyat Plaza on the 29th October 2012.

applications on Tiles, with many locally brewed applications too
applications on Tiles, with many locally brewed applications too

I arrived a little early to check out some of the machines on display running Windows 8. They come in many form factors, but they share a common feature that was lacking in almost all previous desktop/laptop computers – touch screen.

These PCs include:

  • Touch optimized ultrabook and laptops
  • Convertibles – switch from tablet to laptop format in seconds, this includes “sliders”
  • All-in-Ones – gone are the “desktop and towers”
  • Tablets – some with detachable physical keyboards

dozens of devices spotting touch screen running Windows 8
dozens of devices spotting touch screen running Windows 8

With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is unveiling a re-imagined Windows to the world. Whether you want a tablet or a PC, whether you want to consume or create content, whether you want to work or play – Windows 8 delivers a no-compromise, immersive personalized experience that fits your unique style and needs” –  managing director of Microsoft Malaysia, Ananth Lazarus

quite a few form factors too, including all-in-one PCs
Shah and Huai Bin among the attendees checking out Windows 8

The touch interface really does bring an extra dimension to whole computing experience, and unlike previous attempts, this one actually works.

If you think about it, it was actually a child that inherits the best of both parents  – the tablet and desktop/laptop.

and there was an Angry Bird dance group
and there was an Angry Bird dance group

Finally there’s a device that gives you the power to run all the traditional Windows applications, including some of the crucial business applications that we can’ t live without, and then at a simple swipe of the screen,instantly transform the desktop to a full screen, tablet type of interface – Windows 8 UI-Style.

Most of the Metro application won’t be too unfamiliar if you have  experience in using tablet or smart phones, they are usually touch optimized and cater mostly for content consumption or gaming experience.

Ananth Lazarus, Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia takes the stage
Ananth Lazarus, MD of Microsoft Malaysia takes the stage

Microsoft has also been working with local content providers to come up with quite a number of local applications available immediately via their new Windows Store – this includes The Star Online, MYDIN, AirAsia, DiGi and Sunway Lifestyle and more.

Other new features include a new fast and fluid Start screen that allows one-click access to apps and Live Tiles that provide seamless connectivity to multiple social applications including facebook, twitter, and more. Windows 8 also comes with the latest Internet Explorer – version 10.

product demo time, I was quite impressed
product demo time, I was quite impressed

The integration of cloud computing via Skydrive too is a pretty cool functionality found on Windows 8. Every account comes with a free 7 Gigabyte space, and with it when you sign onto any Windows 8 machines, it can pull all your customized applications/photos/settings from Skydrive to give you a personalized experience  as you would with your own computer.

participating manufacturers and MD of Microsoft having a photo op
participating manufacturers and MD of Microsoft having a photo op

There are already some 30 devices available right now running Windows 8. You can get your hands on them on these roadshows:

29 Oct – 4 Nov Kuala Lumpur – Lowyat
2 – 4 Nov Kuala Lumpur – Midvalley
2 – 4 Nov Penang – PISA
2 – 4 Nov Johor Bahru – Persada Johor
9 – 11 Nov Melaka – MITC
16 – 18 Nov Ipoh – Stadium Indera Mulia
30 Nov – 2 Dec Penang – PISA
30 Nov – 2 Dec Kuching – Borneo Convention
30 Nov – 2 Dec Kota Kinabalu – One Borneo
7 – 9 Dec Kuala Lumpur – KLCC

I can’t wait to check out one of these machines in details. One of my colleagues has in fact already bought the Sony Vaio Duo 11, so jealous!