Thursday, March 01, 2012

Microsoft releases Windows 8 Consumer Preview Build, get your Metro on

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is now available for download. Microsoft made its Window 8 announcement at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, which may seem strange for a desktop product --- but then again, Windows 8 is not a desktop-only product.

Windows 8 is designed to run not just on x86 and x64 CPUs but also the ARM processors popular on mobile devices. While Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 8 on ARM will lack some "business manageability features," this new development of cross-CPU Windows will allow a tablet-specific Windows 8 to be "easily" rolled out.

The downloads are available here. They come in English, Chinese, French, German, and Japanese. You can install them on either DVD or a USB Flash Drive.

The build is 8250. This preview, however, only includes the non-ARM builds.

Those who have the Developer Preview can upgrade to the Consumer Preview, preserving their settings and files. If you upgrade from Windows 7, however, be aware that you cannot "uninstall," but would have to fresh install Windows 7 again.

A Release Candidate will be released in approximately three months, with Microsoft aiming to release the final retail version sometime before Christmas. Alas, poor Windows 7, you were so much better than Vista.

Windows 8 comes with the biggest shift in Windows since Windows 95. To some, it may be jarring, and some we know say they are going to make sure they buy extra copies of Windows 7 to install on any future PCs.

Windows 8 comes with a Metro-style interface. If you know Windows Phone, you know it's based on that. Tiles abound, with applications and functions are tied to tiles. Your computer is going to join your smartphone and tablet and be touch-sensitive; to use those apps, you tap those tiles (or click on them).

There will be no more Start Menu, but instead a full-screen view of tiles that you can scroll through horizontally. Applications, shortcuts, documents, webpages, etc. can be pinned to the UI. Sounds like a tablet or smartphone, and as we said, it is.

That said, apps don't have to be written as Metro apps, but Microsoft is encouraging developers to do so. Metro apps can't be run in a traditional, resizeable window as they're intended to be run full-screen, like a mobile app.

It's possible to havef two Metro apps on the screen at once. But then, one window occupies nearly the entire screen, and the second program is squeezed into a narrow band on the side (this is called the Snap feature). Expect much ALT-Tabbing between apps.

There is still, however, the Windows you know and love, which in Windows 8 is called the Desktop. In the Desktop, all your programs run in Windows that you can position anywhere on your screen. Any program designed for today’s Windows will show up in the Desktop interface.

In case you're wondering those, ARM tablets won't be able to run traditional Windows programs coded for x86 / x64 processors.

Microsoft's requirements for hardware capable of running Windows 8: a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM (or 2GB for 64-bit), 16GB of storage (or 20GB for 64-bit), and a DirectX 9 graphics card with WDDM 1.0 support.

One other note: Metro apps require a resolution of 1024 x 768, and to use Snap, 1366 x 768. If you attempt to launch a Metro style app with less, you will receive an error message.

Going to give the Consumer Preview a try? Even though it's labeled Consumer, we'd still recommend only experienced users try it. Remember also that if you try a fresh install of Windows 8, you'd better make sure you have the appropriate drivers for your computer handy, first.

No comments: