Today's the big leap year day when Microsoft let loose Windows 8 Consumer Preview. If you're willing to try it for yourself, it's a free download from Microsoft. It's several gigs, so you'll want a fast internet connection, and you can install it on a separate partition or external hard drive if you don't want to tinker with your "real" Windows 7 environment.
The Metro UI with its brightly colored Live Tiles rules the roost, just as it does with Windows Phone 7.5. We test it out on the Samsung Series 7 Slate, which is the machine Microsoft is using to send out development and review Windows 8 systems. It's perfect for the extremely touch-friendly UI and it runs extremely fast on this Intel Core i5 ULV Windows tablet.
Have no fear, the standard Windows 7 style UI is also here, though the Start Menu has undergone a serious transformation and moved to the right side. If you're using a tablet or a notebook with a touchpad, Metro is truly enjoyable, but if you're using a desktop with a standard (non-touch) mouse, you'll probably want to stay in the more traditional Windows 7 UI. There's actually a registry edit that will bring the traditional Start Menu back and pretty much kill Metro. We're not sure if MS will offer an option to stay in the land of tradition when Windows 8 ships later this year.
Here's our detailed walkthrough and review of Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The short story? I like it much more than I expected-- it's pretty darned good, though a bit schizophrenic with the dual UI.