Windows 8 'Consumer Preview' Coming This Month
Microsoft has announced that a special "Consumer Preview" edition of Windows 8 will be available from February 29, 2012.
It's believed that this version of the upcoming operating system (OS) will boast more features designed for mobile devices.
Though Microsoft isn't using this term, the release appears to be a beta edition, a version of in-development software that is complete, but not considered ready for final release and still open to revisions.
The next stage after that, likely coming in the summer, is a Release Candidate, which is where the developer considers the product finished and is simply looking for bugs that need fixing before the commercial release.
Microsoft already released a developer preview of Windows 8 back in September of 2011, which was not a complete system and was distributed so that software makers could test for compatibility issues. That release received half a million downloads.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview Likely to Suffer Performance Issues
The Consumer Preview will be free-of-charge to download and use, though it will have an automatic expiry date, almost certainly before the final commercial release.
Microsoft is warning that the very nature of the release means it will almost certainly have bugs and other performance issues, so it's therefore recommending that only people who are particularly confident about reverting their operating systems to a previous state (if necessary) download and install it.
The company will then be looking for feedback, both on bugs and on ways to improve the system.
Demo Includes Nine Sample Applications
It appears the Consumer Preview for Windows 8 will include nine applications that will show off the new Metro interface, in which users can get and install software through the same "app store" system used for smartphones.
The idea is that this ensures applications can be added and removed smoothly, and that consumers can be confident that the software has been vetted, at least to some extent, by Microsoft. (Source: tomshardware.com)
Several of the included applications, covering messaging, email, a calendar and a contacts list, look to be adapted versions of the existing Windows Live applications, suggesting that branding will be phased out.
There will also be video and music applications, likely tied in to the Xbox brand.
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