Consumer Preview of Windows 8 available February 29

Microsoft will be providing a free download of the new version of the world’s most popular computer operating system

Windows 8 Metro interface

Microsoft announced that the next step in releasing Windows 8 will occur with a Consumer Preview release of Windows 8. Within 12 to 18 months of deployment of the final release more than 500 million copies of Windows 8 will be on smart phones, tablets, desktops, laptops and servers around the world.

Actually Microsoft didn’t announced the preview but did invite people to a special event in Barcelona, Spain after which consumers will be able to download the free consumer preview of Windows 8.

This is a full trial download that should be hardened enough to use, with some caution. It would be prudent to install it on say a secondary computers for testing but not those in regular production.

Download the Consumer Preview of Windows 8

As a word of caution, there are already scam websites that include Windows 8 in their domain name. Do not download the Consumer Preview from any site but Microsoft.com. We tried a few of these sites already and they attempted to download a file that contained a virus.

The event is the Mobile Word Congress Show. MWC is a symbolic event to launch the next level of Windows 8 since the new operating system will unite Windows across all platforms – mobile, tablet, desktop and laptop.

Windows smartphones will no longer use Windows CE but run a version of the Windows 8 kernel. Windows tablets will get an operating system to use period. Windows CE won’t retire thought. It is used on TV set-top boxes like PVRs and other devices.

What’s new in Windows 8

Tami Reller demonstrating the new Windows 8 features across multiple platforms (see end note).

The first thing that people will notice is the new Metro interface which is pictured above. Users will be able to revert the the Windows 7 icon based home screen but Microsoft is betting people will appreciate the new “live” interface.

Unlike icons which are essentially inert pictures that represent an application, the Metro tiles are live. For instance, Facebook update will show in the Facebook tile. Updated stock prices will display in real time. Users will see that they have email and perhaps the latest message in summary.

Windows Phone 7.5 with live tiles, background and open app

Live tiles will make work on computers more productive. Some industry pundits are not convinced Metro is an improvement. It will be better than static screens since users won’t have to keep apps open in the tool bar to know if there is something new.

Metro will be cross platform using the same interface for smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. That alone will make life easier for people.

The new Windows 8 kernel will be smaller and Windows 8 is expected to load very quickly compared to Windows 7 or Vista.

Who will deploy Windows 8

About 8% of Windows customers are indicating they will upgrade immediately. That number will grow if the Consumer Preview ends up in wide-spread use. The reality about Windows is that once released, it will be the operating system that ships on 90% of all new laptops and desktops.

Windows 8 Deployment Timeline desktop, laptop (Chart Infoweek)

In 2011, Gartner reported 354 million computers were sold worldwide. For the last quarter of 2012, Microsoft is expected to ship Windows 8 on more than 80 million desktops and another 350 million in 2013. That excludes any shipments on Windows Phone and Windows tablets. Windows 8 could reach 500 million users within 12 to 18 months of shipment.

In an Infoweek survey, 52% of organizations said they would upgrade to Windows 8. The current indications are that most corporate clients will wait to deploy Windows 8. Unlike the Vista to Windows 7 migration, there is no compelling performance issue with Windows 7 that needs a fix. Mission critical applications will need to be thoroughly tested before any organization makes the transition to Windows 8.

Windows 8 Server is still in beta with a tentative ship date late in 2012. By 2013, organizations will have the opportunity to see both client and server platforms on the new technology base.

Rationale to upgrade to Windows Server 8 (graphic Infoweek)

End note

During the 1990s we worked with Great Plains Software, before their acquisition by Microsoft. It was a pleasant surprise to see Tami Reller in the video demonstrating Windows 8 at Comdex 2012. She was a marketing executive at Great Plains and an old colleague.

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