Windows 8 is now out – albeit in the form of an early consumer preview version, with all the usual disclaimers that come with a test build (some bugs and incomparability issues are to be expected).
You can grab the preview of the OS here, and check out Microsoft’s attempt at an all-new Metro-style interface, and an operating system which works across all devices, bridging the gap between mobile and desktop.
Not to mention keeping Microsoft relevant when it comes to the tablet explosion driven by Apple and the iPad juggernaut.
Windows 8 is designed with touch in mind, so it functions not just on desktops and laptops, but also tablets. The current preview version is designed to work with Intel chips, with a somewhat different version that’ll run on Arm-powered tablets due later in the year.
The new interface is built using tiles and will be familiar to those who’ve seen Windows Phone 7 in action.
You’ll be able to customise your desktop with the tiles you want, which link to services and apps and are essentially “live” icons. They’re live because real-time information is displayed within them, for example the Facebook tile will flash up new messages arriving.
Those who prefer the traditional desktop experience rather than the tiles can, however, switch back at the touch (or indeed click) of a button.
Tying in with the cloud is also an inevitable facet of a modern OS, with Windows 8 carrying cloud syncing across devices, and back-up of system settings and preferences, to make installing on new devices (or reinstalling) as painless as possible.
Great power efficiency is promised, of particular interest to laptop and tablet users, and Internet Explorer 10 comes bundled offering an “edge-to-edge” user interface with the navigation controls hidden.
In a press release, on the subject of apps Microsoft noted: “The Windows 8 Consumer Preview marks the beta opening of the Windows Store, which is filled with a variety of new Metro style apps from both third-party developers and Microsoft. During the Consumer Preview, these apps are available to try and experience at no cost to users.”
“The Windows Store will offer personalized 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.”
The full release of Windows 8 is expected to emerge later this year, perhaps this summer and certainly by the time autumn has arrived.
The operating system pretty much carries Microsoft’s hopes for the future against the likes of Apple with its iGadgets and Google with Chrome/Android.
The timing of the preview release is also interesting, being just ahead of the iPad 3 reveal next week. Is Microsoft trying to suggest it’s going to be a step ahead of Apple later in 2012? That’s certainly Bill Gates’s hope.