If you've been waiting to take a closer look at Windows 8, Microsoft released a trial version for consumers on Wednesday. The trial was launched at the Mobile World Congress, now taking place in Barcelona, Spain, and it follows by several weeks an earlier preview for developers.
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview, now available as a free download from the company's site at preview.windows.com, contains a mini-app that allows users to test if their computers are Windows 8-ready.
Specs include an Intel or AMD processor running at least at 1 GHz, one GB of RAM and 16 GB of available disk space on 32-bit machines, or two GBs of memory and 20 GB of space on 64-bit, and a graphics card capable of DirectX9 or higher.
New Gestures to Learn
The company said that there have been a variety of product changes and improvements since the developer preview, in response to feedback.
A key feature for Windows 8, of course, is its touch-optimization, so you'd need a touchable PC to take advantage of that form of interaction. The preview released Wednesday does not include the version for ARM-based devices, such as tablets.
The Metro interface features Live Tiles that include real-time data updates from apps and communication services, such as e-mail, social sites, or instant messaging. Users can also use tiles with a mouse and keyboard, or enter a mode that features the more traditional Windows interface.
Navigating the tiles-based interface with a mouse is another option. In addition to clicking large color category blocks with a mouse, there are also some new navigational gestures users will need to learn, such as moving the cursor to the upper-left of the screen and then pulling it in a downward motion to see open applications' thumbnails. Another new gesture is swiping from the left edge to move to the last app used, if it's still open.
New features include a picture password, where a user defines three touch gestures on top of a chosen photo to unlock a device. A split-screen keyboard, with adjustable sizes for the keys, allows for thumb-typing and for the variety of finger sizes.
The Consumer Preview also includes the first opportunity to test the new Windows Store, offering trial versions of Microsoft and third-party apps that are available at no cost during the preview period. There's also a look at Internet Explorer 10, as well as Metro-style apps for Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos and SkyDrive.
By signing in to a Microsoft account, users get access to SkyDrive, with cloud-based settings, e-mail, calendar, and other services, available to both Windows PCs and Windows Phones.
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT, said Windows 8 was "an interesting rethinking of the Windows desktop," which is designed to "provide a simpler, more intuitive interface" across various form factors and use cases.
He said that he found 8 to be "a pretty elegant way of going back to a simpler, less task- and time-intensive way of computing, which could provide a real breath of fresh air." King said his own feeling was that users are going to "respond well" to the new OS.
Posted: 2012-03-02 @ 4:48pm PT
I remember when they where doing win 7 this version had feedback slapped all over it, they actually seemed to care what we thought. I notice with this version that is all gone! My initial thoughts are it would be great if I turned my pc into a mobile phone or tablet, however it isn't. I've worked in the IT industry for more than 20 years now and have managed to pick the winners and losers with MS products rather well. sadly this will go the same way as vista. I will not be recommending this to my clients or SME's. It has the look and feel of a Linux system, to be honest, I will start to look in those directions if this is how Microsoft are going to go.