Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Microsoft Launches Windows 8 Consumer Preview

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The Windows 8 Customer preview is currently available as a free download at

As expected, Microsoft today launched the Windows 8 Consumer Preview for x86 PCs during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. And as with all moves to capture the tech industry’s attention, timing is everything.

Mobile World Congress is to smartphones what CES is to HDTVs. It’s an opportunity to for major handset makers — except for Apple — to unveil their latest wares in the hopes that their efforts in creating the fastest, slimmest and most feature-packed mobiles catch a carrier’s eye and resonate with consumers.

Lately, tablets have muscled into the scene. And Microsoft wants a piece of the action.

Windows for the Post PC Era

Apple’s market-leading iPad has primed the general public for computing experiences where mouse clicks increasingly give way to finger presses and swipes. In Windows 8, the most obvious concession to this trend is its Metro interface.

Distinguished by its colorful, self-updating tiles, the Metro aesthetic anchors the software giant’s other consumer electronics initiatives, Windows Phone 7 and the Xbox 360. Now, it’s doing the heavy lifting on both desktop and upcoming tablet versions of the OS.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview offers users a pre-release glimpse at how the company has been refining Metro. Among the most notable features are gesture-based controls and a lack of the iconic Start button. In its place is a region that triggers a menu of common functions when approached by a cursor or a finger.

Similarly, Charms are ribbons of glyphs that sprout up and offer access to common and app-specific tasks. Internet Explorer 10, which was developed to deliver full-screen Web interactivity, is a showcase for this new functionality.

Cloud integration also factors into the Windows 8 experience. A “Microsoft account” acts as the lynchpin for seamless syncing between devices and sharing content across social networks, according to Kent Walter of the Windows Experience Blog.

He writes, “When you sign in to a Windows 8 PC with your Microsoft account, you’re immediately connected to all of your people, files, and settings, including themes, language preferences, and browser favorites.”

As with any pre-release software, Microsoft cautions that users may encounter bugs and incompatibilities. Recommended specs, as provided by Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s President of Windows and Windows Live, are as follows:

  • 1 GHz or faster processor
  • 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

The Windows 8 Customer preview is currently available as a free download at

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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