Microsoft's next big product push officially begins with the release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, a beta that millions will download.
The next step in Microsofts march toward Windows 8s final
release has arrived, with the upcoming operating systems Consumer Preview
(a fancy term for beta) now available for download.
The Consumer Preview can be found in a special
on Microsofts Website. The betas ISO files (for those who wish to
install it on another partition or virtual machine) are also available
Microsoft has opened the Windows Store, making a variety of Metro-style apps
available to download and try at no cost.
Windows 8s cloud-related features include cloud storage,
the ability to roam all settings, and communicate with email and contacts from
a Windows Phone smartphone or Windows PC. Microsoft is also providing Internet
Explorer 10 Platform Preview 5, specifically tailored to Windows 8 devices.
Microsoft executives cautioned about bugs still present in
the software. It represents a work in progress, and some things will change
before the final release, Kent Walter, a member of the Windows Team, wrote in
a Feb. 29 posting on The
. One of the great things about widely releasing a preview
like this is that it gives us a chance to get a lot of feedback through
telemetry, forums and blog posts on where we can smooth out some of the rough
Microsoft will reportedly release the final version of
Windows 8 in late 2012, ahead of the crucial holiday buying season. In a bid to
spread the Windows franchise onto tablets in addition to traditional PCs,
Windows 8s "start" screen is composed of a set of colorful (and touchable) tiles
linked to applications, with the old-style desktop interface accessible via a
single click or finger tap.
If that alteration expands Windows 8s potential user base,
it also opens it to new competitors in the form of Apples iPad and the host of
Google Android tablets that, despite somewhat anemic sales, refuse to fade from
the marketplace. For months, Microsoft executives have touted Windows 8
tablets ability to offer a no-compromise, desktop-strength experience as an
advantage over these rivals.
If the example set by the Windows 7 beta in 2009 is any
indication, millions will download and try the Windows 8 beta. Microsofts true
challenge will come several months from now, when it needs to persuade those
millions to shell out their hard-earned cash for the final version.
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