Following a less-than-enthusiastic reception for the public preview release of the upcoming Microsoft Windows 8 operating system, we are hearing reports of law firms bringing forward their Windows 7 upgrade rollout plans to ensure any new PC hardware they have to buy is not preloaded with Windows 8. With suggestions that Windows 8 “could be another Vista” firms do not want a replay of 2006 and 2007, when IT departments were having to strip the Vista operating system out of new hardware and replace it with Windows XP.

The RTM (release to manufacturers) date is going to be in late July this year, after which most new PC hardware will ship with Windows 8. The retail release will take place in early October.

However not everyone is quite so pessimistic. David Tuck, principal consultant at Plan-Net plc, has been looking at Windows 8 for us and reports on his experiences…

I’ve downloaded and run the pre-release version of Windows 8 and personally found it very good. It is however a little different on first use with the new interface but, having also operated a Windows Mobile 7.5 phone, I found it not totally unfamiliar. Some people will take a little while to get used to it, as you really do need to start using the Windows key on your keyboard to get back to the main user interface.

Having said that, you can run a Windows desktop and it looks just the same as you have today on Windows 7 without the start button. Positioning your mouse on the left and right of the screen starts Options and once you are familiar with this, then it is quite easy to run.

One good thing about the new UI is the tiles can show information or be animated. For example, the UI could display your calendar or LinkedIn, with information on the contacts or meetings visible via the tile without actually going into the application. Also, regularly used applications can be placed directly on the UI.

The stability of the product was fine and comparable to Windows 7. In my tests it never once failed or lockedup, not bad considering this is a pre-release version.

The challenge for Microsoft has definitely been to get it working with both mouse and touch screen and I think Windows 8 probably lends itself better to a touch screen. The advantage of this is to enable a true single device. Docked in the office you can use a large screen and conventional keyboard. On the train you have the touch screen. Then at home either the touchscreen or docked. But all using the same single device and the same business applications you use today. If Microsoft get Windows 8 right, Apple may have a true fight on its hands in the business tablet market.

Timeline: Microsoft Windows 1.0 appeared in November 1985 however it was not until the release of Windows 3.1 in April 1992 that the platform really began to gain traction. The current iteration Windows 7.0 was released in October 2009 and will be supported until January 2020. Both the developer and consumer preview releases of Windows can be downloaded now and will not expire until 15th January 2013.