Microsoft Releases New and Improved Windows 8 Consumer Preview

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Microsoft has announced today that the next preview phase of Windows 8 is available for users to download and test before it goes on general sale in October.

The software won’t be hitting brand-new computers until October, but the latest version does have 10,000 improvements from what was released in Barcelona earlier this year.

If you do take the plunge and give it a go, the trial will end and replace the existing Windows operating system – so it might be worth partitioning your hard drive to run both Windows 7 and 8.

With Windows 8, Microsoft is making the biggest overhaul since Windows 98 – it’s been designed to be more tablet friendly and employs Microsoft’s much discussed Metro interface.

Gabriel Aul, Director of Windows Programme Management said that user can expect “all of what will be in the final product in terms of big features” in the new preview software. He did say, however, that colours and themes were yet to be finalised for the finished product.

The last version, Windows 7, sold an impressive 525 million copies, CEO Steve Ballmer thinks that they could sell 500 million copies of the new OS within just 12 months.

If you’re familiar with the Xbox 360 or Windows Phone, you’ll be right at home with Windows 8 as the new users interface has borrowed heavily from those devices.

Microsoft has even gone as far as changing the ubiquitous ‘Start’ button, much to purists’ displeasure. The ‘Start’ menu has become an entirely customizable homescreen, and in desktop mode the ‘Start’ button is no longer a permanent fixture.

The new user interface utilises ‘Live tiles,’ which update with users’ social media feeds, emails and calendars. One of the major additions will be the App Store, where Microsoft hopes to lure developers to make apps that will work on desktops, phones and tablets – it’s just the sort of joined-up thinking Microsoft should have been doing a long time ago.

One of the reasons why they’ve basically thrown out the old look is because Windows 8 will now work on ARM tablets – meaning, in theory, you could get it running on your Android or iPad – obviously in time there will branded Windows 8 Tablets hopefully from Samsung, Asus and maybe even Nokia.

Retail sources are excited about the tablet prospects of Windows 8 and are keen to market it as a direct competitor to Apple and its iPad, so you should expect a raft of new hardware including touch-screen laptops, tablets and new all-in-one PCs.

Mr Aul said the redesign was “the biggest change since Windows 95”, but also said the company had focused on ‘learnability’. He claimed 82 per cent of users could easily navigate the software within an hour of first using it.

You can download the new preview software here:

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