Thursday, 01 March 2012 08:27

Windows 8 Consumer Preview arrives

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The Windows 8 Consumer Preview was expected in February, and it just scraped in. Good job 2012 is a leap year...

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Described by Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, as "a complete view of the capabilities of Windows 8," the Consumer Preview is available for download here. It is available via Windows 8 Consumer Preview Setup (which checks the hardware for suitability, provides upgrade assistance, and downloads the right software), or as an ISO disc image (convenient if you plan to try the new OS on more than one computer).

Along with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Microsoft has moved the Windows Store into beta, and a number of Metro applications from Microsoft and other vendors are available for free use during the preview period. According to Microsoft officials, "The Windows Store will offer personalized recommendations, and Windows 8 gives users the ability to take their apps and settings with them across multiple PCs, making it easy to discover and try new apps".

If you are using multiple devices, the preview supports Microsoft's cloud services to support features including roaming settings, cloud storage, and email, calendar and contacts. These capabilities extend to Windows Phones as well as Windows 8.

Windows 8 previewers also get to try Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview 5. Features include an 'edge-to-edge interface' (ie, less 'chrome' and more content) and hardware acceleration.

The hardware requirements for Windows 8 Consumer Preview are basically the same as those for Windows 7, plus a multitouch display if you want to try the touch features. Netbook owners may be in for a disappointment, as the Windows Store and the apps available there require a minimum resolution of 1024x768 rather than the 1024x600 provided by many machines in this class. Perhaps Windows 8 supports downscaling (see, eg, 1024x768 resolution on netbook with Windows 7), which could provide a workaround if you don't want to use an external monitor.

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"With Windows 8, we reimagined the different ways people interact with their PC and how to make everything feel like a natural extension of the device, whether using a Windows 8 tablet, laptop or all-in-one," said Mr Sinofsky. "The Windows 8 Consumer Preview brings a no-compromises approach to using your PC."

He added that Microsoft strongly recommends a hardware installation to get the full experience (as opposed to running the preview on a virtual machine), and said various quality updates and drivers will be delivered in the coming weeks and months: "Please keep in mind that this is a test release of a product still under development."

It appears Windows 8 will come in a significantly smaller range of editions than Windows 7.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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