What to expect from the Windows 8 'Consumer Preview' on Feb. 29

Just so you know, Windows friggin' 8 is coming out this year, and Microsoft just announced it's going to be releasing a "Consumer Preview" (beta) version of it for all to download and test out. Here's what you'll be looking forward to.

There's a lot of excitement surrounding Windows 8. 500,00 downloads in under 24 hours for the developer build of Windows 8 is proof enough that people are interested.

Re-imagined Windows With MetroUI

By far the greatest thing about Windows 8 is not that it's just an evolutionary update to Windows 7, but that it's practically a completely new Windows, built with tablets in mind first. Windows 8 is the first real version of Windows with an interface designed for finger touch (sorry, Windows 7 with a stylus doesn't count).

Most importantly, it places an emphasis on design with a Windows Phone 7-inspired MetroUI that includes live tiles that update dynamically with push-like notifications. Of course, you also have the option of switching back to a traditional desktop view for real working, but most of the "fun" stuff will live in MetroUI.

App Store And Fun Apps

Tom's Hardware says that the Consumer Preview build will come with nine pre-installed apps: Camera, Messaging, Mail, Calendar, SkyDrive, People, Photos, Video, and Music." Messaging seems really fascinating because Microsoft will reportedly enable SMS (text message) support for it through some kind Windows Live connectivity.

We're also hoping that Skype will be integrated directly throughout the OS, now that Microsoft owns the company.

Taking a page from Apple's Mac App Store, Windows 8 will also have an app store called the Windows Store. And given how successful Apple's foray has been, it's a smart move. Throw in the fact that Xbox Live will be baked into Windows 8, and it feels appropriate to say that Microsoft's next OS will rely heavily on cloud-based services and digital content delivery systems and less on discs.

Gaming services like Valve's Steam have already proven the download route is the way to go. It's fast and its convenient. Window 8 will be all about simplicity.

Vroom, Vroom!

And let's not forget that Windows 8 is said to be fast — very fast — so speedy it can start up 70 percent faster than Windows 7 PCs.

Who doesn't love a faster PC that's less crashy, and ultimately less prone to Blue Screen of Deaths?

Still A Few Twists Left

No doubt, there's going to be a lot of new things in the Consumer Preview of Windows 8; things like the killing of the Start button with a hot corner, fragmenting the OS for ARM and x86 tablets and PCs and the Ribbon-ization of everything could be signs of worry.

Even so, Windows 8 feels like the most risky thing the "unimaginative" company's done since the Xbox. We think that Microsoft might finally have woken up from its iterative slumber.

Keep it locked on DVICE on February 29. Microsoft's Mobile World Conference event and download should happen on that date between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. (CET).

Via The Verge and ComputerWorld

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