updated 10:50 am EST, Wed February 29, 2012
Win 8 Consumer Preview detailed, available
Alongside its live Windows 8 Consumer Preview at MWC, Microsoft has now released the latest OS for download. While the software is a work in progress and Microsoft warns users will see some hiccups, it's a chance to perfect it before its final release through user feedback. There won't be official support available to those who try the software either, though sharing problems on a dedicated forum is being encouraged.
Users will need hardware with spec requirements that mirror those needed for Windows 7 These include at least a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of space for the 32-bit version or 2GB and 20GB for the 64-bit software, a DirectX graphics device with at least a WDDM 1.0 driver, and a 1024x768 resolution. The ISO file download is between 2.5GB and 3.4GB in size, depending on the version.
Some features of the OS need more advanced and specific specs, with the Snap feature requiring at least 1366x768 resolution. A touchscreen for the touch function is obviously required, and an advanced one at that, as Windows 8 CP can see up to five simultaneous touch inputs. A web connection is required to access the Windows Store and download and install apps.
The software can run on tablets, desktops, and notebooks while being available in English, simplified Chinese, French, German, and Japanese.
The trademarked tiles of the interface show real-time updates, including mail, weather, friend updates, and more. The Start menu button is hidden until scrolled over in the same bottom left corner as before.
The user's settings, music, photos, files, and contacts are also stored in the cloud, so accessing them from different Windows 8 PCs will be possible through a user's Microsoft account.
The OS also contains shortcuts of sorts for common tasks that Microsoft calls charms. It's a bar that contains shortcuts to access key tasks in the OS, and is an alternative to using the Start screen, which takes longer. The Search charm allows users to find local apps and those on the online app store, search within apps such as Mail, and finding friends in the People app. The Share charm lets users quickly share online content through specific apps. The Devices charm interfaces with gadgets connected to the PC, such as digital cameras and TVs. Settings charm controls basics like volume, settings, and powering down the computer.
When using the touchscreen, users can swipe from left to right across the screen to go back to a previous app, with more swipes going back to older apps. Moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner accomplishes the same.
The Windows Store will have apps grouped in categories that include Microsoft-recommended ones, frequently downloaded ones, and high-quality apps, complete with user ratings. The apps available for Consumer Preview users will be free, and even later, users will have the option to trying apps before they buy them.
A section devoted to updates of currently installed apps will also be present.
The CP also ships with Internet Explorer 10 Consumer Preview, which makes websites display on the whole screen. Tabs and navigation controls hide when not needed (scrolled over).
Microsoft will also let users reinstall Windows 8 CP without losing any of their personal files, settings, and apps.