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In the Windows 8 Release Preview unveiled yesterday, Microsoft delivers major improvements in finger navigation and buttons up many of the technical holes it left in prior betas. But once again, Redmond appears to have missed the memo that non-touch desktop and laptops aren't going away anytime soon.
In fact, recent reseller research conducted here at UBM Channel forecasts strong sales of desktop and laptop devices through 2013. Indeed, non-tablets will still represent the vast majority of prospective upgrade targets when Windows 8 becomes generally available in October. Yet Microsoft has resisted calls to make Windows 8 friendlier to the ubiquitous keyboard, mouse and other sundry input hardware.
To its credit, Microsoft had in prior versions improved mouse navigation in Metro by automatically scrolling when the mouse pointer reaches the edge of the screen. However, that same horizontal scroll bar removed from Metro is present in some of the new apps included in the Windows 8 Release Preview. If the mouse has a scroll wheel, it can be used for horizontal scrolling in these screens. Since it's usually used for vertical scrolling, we didn't notice that capability right away.
[Related: Microsoft Offers Windows 8 Release Preview]
We also took note of another annoying characteristic that now appears to be history. When the pointer is moved to the lower left corner of the desktop screen, a thumbnail of the Start (Metro) screen appears, but it would quickly disappear when the mouse pointer was moved onto it prior to clicking. This counter-intuitive feature -- having to click something when the pointer isn't on the screen -- is no longer a problem. Also, the Start-screen thumbnail now appears from within any application. And if you're already in Metro, the thumbnail of the most recent app is displayed.