Microsoft launched its Windows 8 Consumer Preview today, marking the big public beta test-version reveal of its radically redesigned flagship operating system.
Windows 8 is being designed from the ground up to be optimized for both touch tablets and desktop and laptop PCs. It’s Microsoft’s big bid to try to catch up with competitors in the mobile/tablet market while still retaining its large base of PC customers.
The Consumer Preview is not the final version of Windows 8. That will come later this year. Microsoft has not yet given a firm final release date but many are expecting Windows 8 to launch to the general public in the fall.
In the meantime, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview can be downloaded here. Let us know what you think of it.
And here’s a roundup of reactions to the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, as well as a rundown of what happened this morning during Microsoft’s press conference announcing the launch. The press conference was held in Barcelona, coinciding with the Mobile World Congress.
UPDATE 8:07 a.m.: Here’s Gizmodo’s hands-on, which says in part:
Windows 8 is a radical departure from anything Microsoft has done before. When you try it for the very first time, it feels a bit like stepping out onto ice. … Getting your feet beneath you is tricky. But as you learn your way around the interface, instead of slipping you begin to glide. …
By the time the final version ships later this year, it’s clear that Windows 8 is going to be a remarkable, daring update to the venerable OS. It is a departure from nearly everything we’ve known Windows to be. You will love it, or hate it.
I love it.
Here’s Engadget’s hands-on, which concludes:
Disjointed is the key word that comes to mind after you spend some time with Windows 8. As a tablet OS, if you can keep in Metro land, things feel good. Very good. … That said, Windows is still primarily a desktop operating system, and once you get to that level the cracks in the foundation start to show.
Jumping back-and-forth between Metro and desktop is hugely disorienting and, at least in the early days of Windows 8, you’ll be doing a lot of that. The simple task of switching between apps using the mouse has become painful. …
Windows 8 still feels like two very different operating systems trying to be one.
UPDATE 8:03 a.m.: Here’s Mashable’s hands-on, which says in part:
My first impression: Almost, but not quite.
Microsoft has a vision, a dream even. It wants to have the same operating system running across all its devices. It’s a laudable goal, with many advantages for both Microsoft and its customers. The thing is people use different gadgets differently — you don’t do all the same things on a tablet that you do on a PC, and when you do, the experience is different.
Microsoft knows this, so Windows 8 is highly adaptable. It responds differently to touch than it does to a mouse. …
However, some of the subtleties in the interface appear to be poorly thought out.
UPDATE 8 a.m.: The next milestones for Windows 8 are the release candidate, and then RTM, then general availability. Sinofsky did not comment on timing of the release, according to CNET.
UPDATE 7:53 a.m.: There’s apparently a Windows to Go — a USB key that allows users to run Windows 8 on older (non-Win 8) PCs — that will be available for enterprise customers, according to CNET.
UPDATE 7:35 a.m.: Here’s ZDNet’s Ed Bott with his hands-on:
Microsoft says they’ve made “more than 100,000 changes” since the Developer Preview release, and it shows. It’s still a work in progress, but there’s no question that this release is ready for enthusiasts, early adopters, and especially skeptics to evaluate critically.
Dozens of small changes (and a few large ones) address complaints about the Start and search screens. You can manage groups of icons more easily (and optionally assign names to those groups) using the semantic zoom feature.
UPDATE 7:19 a.m.: Michael Angiulo, vice president of Windows planning, is onstage in Barcelona talking about Windows on Arm (WOA).
(WOA — which will presumably appear mainly on tablets and is expected to have the long standby and battery life typical of system-on-a-chip processors — is not part of today’s downloadable Consumer Preview. WOA is currently available on hardware that is available only to select developers for trial and testing.)
A full version of Office 15 will be on ARM, “just like their X86 counterpart,” and will be “tuned for touch capabilities, but retain mouse and keyboard use,” CNET reports.
UPDATE 7:10 a.m.: The Windows Store beta is launching today too. All the apps will be in the new Metro style user interface. During the Consumer Preview, the apps are free, according to Microsoft’s news release.
UPDATE 7:03 a.m.: Windows 8 Consumer Preview allows for cloud syncing, where you “sign in with your Microsoft account and everything will be ported from your other Windows 8 devices,” CNET reports.
At the press conference, Larson-Green is also showing how the new OS operates fluidly between a touch interface and keyboard-and-mouse interface by scrolling through her photos with her fingers while navigating with the keyboard and mouse, according to CNET.
UPDATE 6:53 a.m.: My Seattle Times colleague, Brier Dudley, has a hands-on review of Windows 8 CP. He says:
The new preview version is lovely, fast and fun to use, as was the preview version released to software developers last September. Its “Metro” interface — one of the top new features — fills the desktop with dynamic tiles that are especially suited to touchscreens and activities such as handling photos, Web browsing and using social networks. …
This isn’t new with the consumer preview, though. The overall look and feel of Windows 8 hasn’t changed much at all since last September. … Since then, Microsoft has added dozens of new features and tweaks, including media applications, new touch gesture controls and more mouse and keyboard shortcuts.
And here’s a hands-on from Tom Warren at The Verge. He says:
Perhaps the biggest change in the Consumer Preview, at least visually, is the removal of the Start Button Orb in the desktop mode. Microsoft’s bold move means the typical Start button interaction point for Windows users has been moved to the Charms bar for Windows 8. …
Microsoft has overhauled its gestures in Windows 8 Consumer Preview. A lot of work has been focused on ensuring the relevant mouse and keyboard equivalent of touch gestures work better than the company’s Developer Preview build.
UPDATE 6:46 a.m.: Here’s the link to the download of Windows 8 Consumer Preview.
UPDATE 6:40 a.m.: At the press conference in Barcelona, Windows President Steven Sinofsky says there are significant changes to Windows 8 since the Developer Preview (released at Build in September), according to CNET.
Julie Larson Green, vice president of Windows program management, gives a user-experience demo of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, similar to what she did at Build.
The long-awaited launch of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is happening now in Barcelona, coinciding with the Mobile World Congress.
From Pri0 hq in Seattle, I’ll keep this post updated throughout the morning with a roundup of links and other happenings as the Microsoft press conference gets underway.
Here are some links to get you started:
The CNET crew is live blogging the event here.
Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet has a FAQ here.
(Image of Windows 8 Consumer Preview start screen from Microsoft)