Windows 8 Release Preview

Yesterday Microsoft shipped the Release Preview for Windows 8, the final public sneak peek for what the company keeps calling a "no compromise" version and "reimagining" of the decades-old OS.Top Windows chief Steven Sinofsky took to a company blog to announce the availability of Release Preview, and along the way cited all kinds of impressive numbers, ranging from "hundreds of millions of hours of testing" to an accounting of the often-verbose "Building Windows 8" blog.

But the Release Preview isn't the final code, Sinofsky warned."We will still be changing Windows 8," he said, referring to the time between now and RTM, or "release to manufacturing," the stage where code is handed over to computer makers to begin installing on new systems.While Release Preview is a step up from February's Consumer Preview, it shows rough spots and has some important unfinished business, among the latter a more complete reworking of the user interface (UI) to ditch Vista's and Windows 7's "Aero" look-and-feel.

That's the point of the whole process, said Sinofsky: "We'll be looking hard at every aspect of Windows 8 as we complete the work on the product," he said.With that in mind, is it worth your while to try the Release Preview? That's only one question among many that you probably have as you ponder the download. As always, we've tried to answer the most important.

Is it worth my time? Most reviewers have said yes to that one, but with a caveat.If you're mostly interested in the traditional desktop half of Windows 8, the Release Candidate probably isn't worth the trouble. Preston Gralla,Computerworld's resident Windows guru -- and who reviewed the Release Candidate -- called the desktop "an afterthought," and said there's little different here than in the Consumer Preview of three months ago.

But if you want to see more of the Metro side of Windows 8, the Release Preview has plenty to strut, including three new apps that some have said are "the true stars of the new OS" and "really show what a well-designed Metro app is capable of doing."

Gralla's review of the Release Preview, by the way, should go live within the next few hours. Return later today to check it out.Where do I get it? You start the streamlined download-and-install process at Microsoft's Release Preview website.(And remember, just as with the earlier Consumer Preview, you don't have to give Microsoft your email address to grab a copy, although at first glance that may seem so.)

It all starts with a 5MB setup executable that you'll run on a Windows 7, Vista or XP system, or on a PC or virtual machine that you earlier migrated to either last year's Developer Preview or this year's Consumer Preview. The setup file then downloads the rest of the upgrade -- a 1.6GB to 1.9GB deal for the 32- and 64-bit versions -- and launches the install.



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