Windows 8 Release Preview is Out Now
Microsoft has released the latest test version of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, which is now officially in what the company calls its "final phase" of development.
This new preliminary version, called Release Preview, can be downloaded here and its interface is available in 14 languages, Microsoft said on Thursday.
Microsoft also announced that starting on June 2, it will offer a Windows Upgrade program in 131 markets so that consumers who buy participating Windows 7 PCs through Jan. 13 of next year will be able to purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of US$14.99 during the promotion period. Microsoft will later announce details of a similar program aimed at consumers who have already bought Windows 7 PCs.
The previous Windows 8 test version, called Consumer Preview, was released in February and downloaded more than 1 million times within its first 24 hours of availability. At this point, Windows 8 is the most tested Microsoft operating system ever, according to the company.
As with any other major Windows revamp, much is riding on Windows 8, which has been designed with tablet devices in mind. As iPad and Android tablets sell by the millions, Windows is a minor player in this market, putting Microsoft at a disadvantage not only among consumers but also among corporate buyers.
There is much expectation among industry analysts and market observers related to how well -- or not -- Windows 8 will do once it's released in general availability. Microsoft hasn't given a date for its shipment, but the consensus is that it will probably be available before the end of this year.
In a blog post about the Release Preview, Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, said that, if the Windows 8 development continues at its current pace, it's likely that the OS will be available "for the holidays." That would apply both to Windows 8 for devices based on x86 chips from Intel and AMD, and to the Windows 8 version for devices based on ARM chips, called Windows RT.
Some have speculated that most enterprises may bypass Windows 8 altogether, because many companies are just now upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7. Enterprises typically do desktop OS refreshes every three to five years, and sometimes wait even longer to embark on what is a very complex and costly upgrade process.