So the Windows 8 "Consumer" Preview was released yesterday, and I decided to give it a spin on real hardware. If you want to do that, you can find it over here:http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/iso
It's a fair bit more refined than the dev release from a while ago, but I honestly hope they don't release it the way it stands today. The new Metro interface is what I would call "cute", but is far from a good workflow for what I imagine is the great majority of users. Simple window management for the new Metro apps is designed assuming you have a touchscreen, and is rather cumbersome with a mouse or keyboard. Example: To close a Metro app, you have to click at the top of the screen and "throw" it off the bottom. To get a list of app, you go from the top left corner, and drag down along the left side. The start menu is long gone, and is replaced with a full screen touch chooser Metro screen, a la Windows Phone 7. Even all of the normal controls, like check boxes, are replaced by drag switches, like Android ICS or iOS. The experience is smooth and attractive, but I do not have a tablet, or a touchscreen. As a result, I find myself pinning applications to my taskbar and dropping icons all over the desktop for anything I use frequently, so that I can avoid having all of my apps disappear for the Metro interface chooser.
Microsoft added support to integrate Windows 8 with your Google accounts, which is a great thing. To use most of the online features, you are still forced to have a Windows Live account, and the MS App Market and XBox Live features are pushed in a number of places. Thankfully, these are easily removed from the Metro screen, and then I was able to sign into my Google account. The mail integration is pretty good, and my contacts were pulled into the People app. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any support for multiple calendars on my Google account, so I lose many of my appointments. It should still work fine for most users.
The real problems are in application support. There are many apps that I've grown accustomed to that just don't work yet. My OBD-II software for auto maintanance won't start, Console2 and Cygwin don't seem to work, and my Lenovo hardware apps are broken. Most frustrating is that multiple monitor support feels poor. There isn't any way to move the Metro hotspot bars to different screens, so some of the hot-corner functionality is now in the middle of my desktop. Also, getting the desktop extended across multiple monitors required tricking the config screens and disabling things until it let me put monitors next to each other. I expect that will get fixed by release, though.
Overall, Win8 is attractive, but really does seem a big step back in workflow efficiency. I'll probably have to give it a pass if Metro is still forced on the user on release day.