Microsoft's week centered on the rollout of its Windows 8 and Windows Server "8" betas.
centered on one big thing: the release of its Windows 8 Consumer Preview
(another term for beta).
Its nearly impossible
to overstate the importance of Windows 8 to Microsofts continuing
fortunes. While the company maintains a lions share of the traditional
PC operating system market, that market as a whole is being eclipsed by the
rise of tablets and other mobile devices as the center of consumers
computing lives. Windows 8 has been engineered to work equally well on
tablets as desktops and laptops; the start screen, for example, 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.
In theory, the evolution will allow Microsoft to hold onto the PC OS market
while expanding in a major way into the mobile segment.
In a two-hour
at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Windows Division
President Steven Sinofsky and other executives demonstrated a host of Windows
8 features and applications.
Sinofsky suggested that
Windows 8 represented a generational shift in OS design, capabilities and
functionality. Microsoft engineers have apparently instituted some 100,000
code changes since the Windows 8 developer preview launched in 2011. It is
very important to maintain the hallmark of the PC ecosystemchoice, he
said. Our goal with Windows 8 is to deliver PCs without compromise.
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.
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.
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 Windows Blog.
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 edges.
have already been encouraging third-party developers to build apps for
Windows 8, which features an app storefront similar to those offered by
Apple and Google. But the creation of a robust, mobile-centric Windows 8
ecosystem spread across everything from tablets and PCs to smartphones
would move Microsoft past Apple, which still relies on two separate
operating systems for its mobile and PC efforts (with iCloud keeping files
in sync between them), and Google, which relies on Android for mobile and
Chrome OS for its Chromebook laptops.
Microsoft also used
this week to roll out its Windows Server 8 beta for IT administrators and
developers. As with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft is pushing
the beta to the widest possible audience in order to receive tons of
feedback, the better to refine the product ahead of final release.
Among its multiple
capabilities, Windows Server 8 includes robust features related to
multi-machine management and automation. The new Hyper-V Network
Virtualization allows different units within an organization to share
network infrastructure. IT administrators will have the ability to move
virtual machines and servers without disrupting network assignments.
released its Windows Server 8 developer preview in September 2011,
touting the enhancements to virtual networking, storage and infrastructure
management. The obvious competitive target is VMWare, particularly the
latters vSphere 5 platform for x86 server virtualization.
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