Windows 8 Consumer Preview Kicks Off Microsoft's Next Big Push

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2012-02-29 Print this article Print

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 Microsoft€™s march toward Windows 8€™s final release has arrived, with the upcoming operating system€™s €œConsumer Preview€ (a fancy term for beta) now available for download.

The Consumer Preview can be found in a special area on Microsoft€™s Website. The beta€™s 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 8€™s 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. €œIt 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 Windows Blog. €œOne 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 edges.€

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 8€™s "start" screen is composed of a set of colorful (and touchable) tiles linked to applications, with the €œold-style€ desktop interface accessible via a single click or finger tap.

If that alteration expands Windows 8€™s potential user base, it also opens it to new competitors in the form of Apple€™s 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 €œno-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. Microsoft€™s 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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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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