Microsoft takes a leap of faith with Windows 8

In time for leap day, Windows 8 Consumer Preview garners early positive reviews, but we're a long way before it lands

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.

[ InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard reveals potential gotchas for business users in Windows 8. | Find out what Microsoft's forthcoming OS means for IT in InfoWorld's Windows 8 Deep Dive report. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

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.

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