MWC 2012: Microsoft Opens Windows 8 For Public Testing

Consumers can now preview Microsoft’s forthcoming operating system as Windows 8 opens for free, public download

Members of the public can now get their hands on Microsoft’s forthcoming operating system Windows 8 after Redmond made a Consumer Preview available for download.

Microsoft made the announcement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona when it unveiled the operating system. Microsoft made it clear that Consumer Preview is not a finished product, but it does provide one of the first glimpses of Microsoft’s new App Store. This pre-release version of the operating system is available for free download here.

Re-imagined Windows

Windows 8 has been designed to operate on both the traditional computer, as well as tablet PCs. It also features a tile-based “Metro” interface, which Redmond first created for its Windows Phone platform.

“Today is a big day for the Windows team. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain a few moments ago, we unveiled the Windows 8 Consumer Preview to our partners and press,” wrote Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft, in a blog posting.

“Based on a broad range of feedback, we have made over 100,000 code changes and the Consumer Preview represents a refined product ready for broad and daily usage by those of you willing to test a pre-release OS,” he wrote.“Windows 8 re-imagines Windows, from the chipset to the experience.”

Sinofsky said that the Developer Preview had focused on presenting the new APIs and new tools for developers, but the Consumer Preview is focused on a broader audience and promised “the full user experience, the Windows Store for apps, and early previews of some first- and third-party apps”.

Windows Store

Specifically, Sinofsky said that the Consumer Preview represents a complete view of the capabilities of Windows 8. It also contains the long-awaited Windows Store with an “App Preview” of new apps.

“You’ll see 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,” wrote Sinofsky.

He added that the Consumer Preview allows for seamless integration with Cloud content and comes with early previews of the Metro style apps for Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, and SkyDrive.

The Windows beta also contains a preview version of Internet Explorer 10, which has been designed specifically for Windows 8 devices.

“We’ve detailed many features in this blog across all the subsystems of Windows 8. From the kernel, networking, file system, graphics, and the user interface across all of those. There’s no easy way to enumerate the depth and breadth of Windows 8 in a post. The best thing to do is experience it yourself,” said Sinofsky.

Windows 8 apparently has the same system requirements as Windows 7.

Microsoft Fightback

The Consumer Preview is the latest move by Microsoft as it seeks to re-establish its leading position in the tech industry. The company is currently playing a long term game as it seeks to reposition itself in light of new technology developments.

For example, it has been working very hard to overcome the disaster that was Windows Vista, and to that end Windows 7 proved to be a solid performer. Redmond was also undoubtedly caught out by the tablet phenomenon and its ‘cannibalisation’ of PC sales, but Windows 8 is designed to meet this challenge by running on both tablets and conventional PCs.

Likewise, Microsoft is working to build its presence in the mobile sector with Windows Phone 7 and its partnership with Nokia. Early reports suggest that Microsoft is finally making some ground here.

How well do you know your operating systems? Take our quiz.