Microsoft on Wednesday released its long-awaited Beta version of Windows 8, which the company is calling the Consumer Preview. The previous milestone, the so-called Developer Preview, arrived last September. And given the quality of this new release, one might logically expect that a 2012 release to manufacturing (RTM) is pretty much guaranteed.
"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 Microsoft President Steven Sinofsky. "The Windows 8 Consumer Preview brings a no-compromises approach to using your PC."
What that means to the users and enthusiasts who might be interested in downloading and testing the freely and publicly available Consumer Preview is that this new release actually works—and works well—with keyboard and mouse, and not just with touch-based systems. That's probably the single biggest change since the Developer Preview.
Also new for today is the public's first peek at the Windows Store, the app store that's built into Windows 8, and the first selection of apps that will be included. At the time of this writing, there's no word about which apps will appear at first, but Microsoft tells me it will be combination of third-party apps, Microsoft apps, and apps that Microsoft worked closely on with key developers.
The big question with Windows 8 is whether users will embrace a system that basically has two UIs: the new Metro-style Start screen and the legacy desktop. Interaction between the two isn't particularly seamless, but it does provide a way for users to utilize their stable of current applications while using new Metro apps as well.
As you might expect, I've written quite a bit about the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, but the sheer volume of content I've already posted will probably surprise you. You'll find a handy guide to all of my Windows 8 Consumer Preview articles, as well as a nice overview to this release, in Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Welcome To The Windows 8 Consumer Preview.
And if you're interested in downloading and testing the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, please visit the Microsoft website. My install guides will be up later this week, covering clean install, upgrade, Push Button Reset, and the new web-based installer!