Update: The Consumer Preview is now available at Microsoft, LINK.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview
It’s Windows reimagined and reinvented from a solid core of Windows 7 speed and reliability. It’s an all-new touch interface. It’s a new Windows for new devices. And it’s your chance to be one of the first to try it out.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview Setup will check to see if your PC can run Windows 8 Consumer Preview and select the right download. Setup also features a compatibility report and upgrade assistance. Built-in tools for creating an ISO or bootable flash drive are available for some previous versions of Windows (excluding Windows XP and earlier). You can find system requirements and additional information in the FAQ and in the links on this page.
The style and usage of computers — and computer-like devices — have changed dramatically over the past few years. Smartphones are continuing to surge and tablets — once referred to as tablet computers — are becoming an ever more popular way to access the web, email, contacts, and games. Companies are scrambling to keep up with the changes invoked by the iPad and the Android tablets that followed in its path. There is a general shift taking place, causing the consumer market to move from stationary desktop computers to more mobile devices, with simplified operating systems and user interfaces. So where does that leave Microsoft, the company that grew to fame and prosperity with its Windows operating system? Can they make the change that appears to be necessary to keep up with the shifting ways that we interact with technology? That is exactly what they are trying to do with Windows 8, their new touch-centric operating system that should ship by the end of the year.
Some may think that this really is no advancement and point to the fact that Windows 7 already supports touch. While it is true that Windows 7 supports touch (I myself own an HP Touchsmart machine), Microsoft Windows was not built with touch as the main input in mind and is therefore not as user-friendly as iOS or Android. With the tablet market gaining steam and respect among just about every audience, it is time for Microsoft to optimize its experience before jumping in headfirst with a round of new Windows-based tablets.
Windows 8 will be an operating system that spans across devices of many types, shapes, and sizes. From the high-powered desktop power user to the average laptop warrior, to the streamlined, casual tablet user — Windows 8 aims to fit the bill. The key is Microsoft’s new “Metro” UI, the basis of the new operating system. The screen features a panel of tiles (like the live tiles in Windows Phone 7) which flash and change with live updates. Think of them as living icons that can bring you up to date information without having to actually open the associated application.
A more traditional desktop interface is still accessible, and is accessed through one of the tiles, the idea being that for casual use you stay within the Metro interface and when you are ready to do some hard-core tasks that still require mouse and keyboard you can switch right into the more traditional desktop. Some are praising Microsoft for making such a bold move to modernize and innovate with Windows. Many, however, are finding it hard to imagine a desktop computer that boots up to what looks like a tablet interface (there will be the option to skip Metro on boot). While there has already been a developer preview, and a consumer preview on the way, I think only time will tell us whether Microsoft has managed to integrate the best of both worlds, or if they will be left with a mess trying to combine two very different ideas. We eagerly await the release of Windows 8 because, either way, things are going to change dramatically.