Windows on the Way
The first technical preview of Windows 8 back in 2011 was a way for developers to find bugs, businesses to test compatibility with their apps and for Microsoft to get feedback from a large base of users. Spring's consumer preview was largely a hardware soak test on as much kit as possible, as millions of users gave the OS a run out.
This final, Release Preview is a great PR exercise, to get people trying out the new features, largely the new Metro interface and get users hooked, so they won't downgrade back to their previous OS and pay up for the full launch when the time comes. The OS itself must be nearing a finished state for Microsoft to be confident to offer it on a general release. Microsoft has been pumping out posts on features on the Developing Windows 8 blog, but yesterday, something new turned up.
A final public test was expected sometime soon, but it looks like Microsoft jumped the gun with a post, dated for today, on a brand new Windows Hardware blog, which went up yesterday. Read all about that on TNW. But the key message from it was:
We’re very excited to make available today the Windows 8 Release Preview on the Windows Dev Center. Windows 8 represents a leap forward for the Windows platform, the development tool set, and the device experiences you can build for Windows. We’re launching this blog to give you some insight into how we designed and built Windows 8, and to explore the best practices for developing great hardware and drivers, as you enter the new world of Windows 8 development.
That blog seems to be focused on driver development, and links to several resources for creating fully-functional Windows 8 drivers.
Playing Fair for the Future
Assuming Microsoft does actually go public with the launch today, expect many millions more downloads of the OS. Despite Microsoft's claim of a pain-free install, if you search for "Windows 8 install errors", there are many problems with older hardware, removable storage and the like. So, do take precautions if you fancy giving this new test a go.
A popular way of trying it is on Virtual PCs, and there are plenty of tips and advice out there for getting it to run alongside your current OS. The Release Preview will also integrate better with Microsoft's cloud features and services like SkyDrive, with a new post from that blog touting improved photo support, right from the Photo menu in Windows 8, although it dates the Release Preview for the first week of June.
Whenever the release hits, it starts the bull run towards the full and final release expected in October, which will herald a whole new army of tablets and ultrabooks, marking a new phase in the OS, PC format wars. Best fighting trousers on, chaps!