Metro is not the only user interface in Windows 8. You can swipe or click your way to a desktop UI that looks much like earlier Windows versions, without the Start button. Apps that can operate in both UIs (not all can) look different: In Metro, apps run full-screen (as on a tablet or phone) and have embedded buttons, a swipe-up control bar or a right-swipe Settings icon to operate their functions. On the desktop, apps have the expected menus and can be windowed and arranged.
Desktop utilities have been updated as well. Explorer (file) windows now have an optional Ribbon menu system that puts most options, such as revealing hidden files, one click away. I was especially impressed with the improvements to the Task Manager, which now shows how each running app and Windows process is using the computer's CPU, memory, disk, and network resources, and keeps a history of app usage. It also includes the features of the System Configuration manager—a utility that lets you check and change what runs every time you boot up—which you formerly had to launch by typing "msconfig" into a Start/Run window.
Some things are just missing in the Metro UI. You can't view a photo's properties, such as its name, location, or date, within the Metro Photos app, for example. For that info, you need to open a file window to the Photos library, as in Windows 7. In the desktop UI, the Start button-cum-orb that been with us since Windows 95, is gone, ostensibly replaced by the Metro Start screen, according to Microsoft.
Finally, Microsoft has integrated a variety of online features into many of the built-in apps and into Win 8 itself. There's an app store (with a little under 100 apps in the preview), lots of them tied to online info such as news, weather, and mapping. I suspect the final version of Windows 8 will have a strong tie-in to Microsoft's Live cloud-based services for storage and backup.
The built-in backup program is rebadged as Windows 7 File Recovery, indicating that Microsoft is abandoning it. But there's a new program in the Control Panel called File History that keeps track of changes you make to files, letting you revert to an earlier version, much like Apple's Time Machine. Another new Control Panel item, Manage Storage Spaces, appears to mimic the pooled storage system Microsoft included in its Windows Home Server OS. That system let you add hard drives—external or internal—treating their combined capacity as if it were one large drive, simplifying backup.
There will be much more to say about the retail release of Windows 8, which will no doubt be somewhat different from this Consumer Preview. And we'll be interested to see how PC and tablet manufacturers respond to this imminent touch-based Windows release.