Windows 8 review: Yes, it's that bad

A desktop OS for tablets and a tablet OS for desktops, Windows 8 is guaranteed to disappoint nearly everyone

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While it's possible to jury-rig some import vectors -- for example, exporting an Outlook Contacts database to a flat file and importing it to Google Contacts -- in general, there's no way I could find to get my existing stand-alone Office Outlook Calendar or Contacts, or Windows Contacts (Vista, Win7), into any of the Metro apps.

There's a new Metro app on the default Start screen called, simply, Bing. Tap or click the Metro Bing tile and you get a Bing search screen that links directly into Bing's Trending list, with current hot news topics such as "Evelyn Lozada of Basketball Wives T-Shirt Shop Entrepreneur." The search screen also gives you one-step-removed search results.

Other Metro Bing apps have seen some improvement. The bug in the Bing Finance app's Russell Index listing that I mentioned previously is gone, although Bing Finance continues to offer only 20-minute time-delayed stock quotes. Metro Bing News now updates its main news item much more frequently than it did during beta.

Metro Bing Travel was dealt a heavy blow earlier this week when Google announced it was buying the travel guide publisher Frommer's. A very large percentage of the travel articles in Bing Travel -- including almost all of the Featured Destinations descriptions, and hotel and restaurant recommendations -- come from Frommer's. That's likely to change shortly, I should think.

The Windows Store expanded greatly with new offerings, including eye-candy Metro versions of Solitaire and Minesweeper, both published by Microsoft Studios, the Xbox developer group inside Microsoft. The legacy version of both programs -- indeed, all of the old Windows games -- have been retired. (No, the new versions don't have the same old cheats.)

Metro Photos and Metro Video remain devoid of any editing capability. Fortunately, Microsoft released a marginally improved Windows Photo Gallery and a substantially better Windows Movie Maker last week. Metro Music continues to amaze with a nearly complete dearth of useful features, although the app makes it easy to order music from Microsoft.

Slight changes to the Windows desktop
There are few user-noticeable changes in the Windows desktop programs; as best I can tell, the changes are almost entirely cosmetic.

One exception: with the Enterprise version of Win8 now available, Windows to Go -- portable Windows 8 on a USB stick -- comes out of the closet. In my brief tests with WTG, I was surprised to find that it worked on any machine I could find, as long as it could boot from USB. WTG even managed to conjure up some esoteric drivers. On the downside, it's painfully slow without a USB 3 connection, and the software required to create the bootable USB drive is only available in the Enterprise version of Win8.

In general, Microsoft's programs on the RTM version of Windows 8 run considerably faster than on the Release Preview version. That's true of both system programs on the desktop side and Metro apps. I also found it applied to both traditional mouse-and-keyboard systems and on a touch-sensitive tablet.

One of the most intriguing changes: Internet Explorer 10 still has Do Not Track as a default, but Microsoft put the option to turn off DNT into the Windows setup procedure. (In spite of what you might have read, the option is located in Win8 setup, not in IE setup.) If you take the defaults when you install Windows 8, IE10 has DNT turned on -- a controversial move that puts Microsoft on the side of privacy advocates and pits it against advertising groups. Whether Microsoft's approach satisfies the many conflicting calls for DNT implementation remains to be seen.

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