On the Cover
Public test drive for Window 8
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 00:00
Written by Kathryn McConnachie
Microsoft has lifted the lid on its new operating system by making the Windows 8 consumer preview publicly available for download.
Released at the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, the latest pre-release of Windows 8 is being punted as a milestone for the Windows OS. The revamped platform is optimised to cater for multiple devices, while supporting navigation via touch, as well as a traditional mouse and keyboard.
Windows 8 made its first appearance in September last year, when it was made available as a developer preview. According to Microsoft, the initial preview achieved over three million downloads. The consumer preview version of the OS is said to improve on the developer preview in both performance and quality. “It represents a more complete view of the capabilities of Windows 8,” says Microsoft.
The latest iteration includes the beta opening of the Windows Store, which includes the new “Metro style” apps that fit into the Cubist design of Windows 8 (and that of Windows Phone). The apps from both Microsoft and third-parties are available for free in the preview. In the current app-centric consumer environment, the success of the Windows Store will be pivotal for Microsoft. “The Windows Store will offer personalised recommendations, and Windows 8 gives users the ability to take their apps and settings with them across multiple PCs, making it easy to discover and try new apps while offering developers the greatest opportunity of any platform,” says Microsoft.
The revamped Start screen incorporates live tiles that show real-time updates with deep integration with apps and social media. “This design style is great on a phone for getting you to the content you want easily and quickly, and extended to the whole screen of a PC, it’s even better,” says Microsoft, adding that the screen is completely customisable.
President of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft, Steven Sinofsky, says: “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.”
The preview is available for download worldwide. Microsoft has emphasised it is a pre-release and that a lot more work will still go into the platform before its official release. The preview is currently only available for PCs and laptops, and system requirements include at least a 1GHz processor, 1GB or 2GB RAM, 16GB available 32-bit hard disk space, a DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher, and 1024 x 768 screen resolution (minimum).
When Windows 8 was fi rst unveiled by Microsoft, it was met with mixed reviews by industry experts. At the time, Ovum principal analyst, Richard Edwards, said the new OS was essential to Microsoft’s future and that if it failed to strike a chord with the market, it would be “game-over” for the Windows PC as we know it.
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