Operating Systems

Microsoft Puts Windows 8 Up for Another Round of Show and Tell

Microsoft on Thursday unveiled the latest version of its Windows 8 Release Preview in 14 languages.

This is the second preview release of the OS. The first, called — appropriately — “Windows 8 Consumer Preview,” was released in February.

The newer release includes new apps; improvements to existing apps such as Mail, Photos and People that were released in February; and tens of thousands of refinements, Microsoft claims.

Microsoft will continue refining the product before it’s released to manufacturing (RTM), which comes later this year.

“There will likely be a huge number of fixes after this latest drop because most of the applications that will run on the platform, and virtually all of the hardware that will release with it, don’t exist yet,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

“I think they’re working very hard to manage expectations,” said Michael Cherry, senior analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

Microsoft representative Tara Gremillon pointed TechNewsWorld to the company’s blog posts on the release when approached for further comment.

Getting Better All the Time

Improvements in the latest release of Windows 8 include increased personalization options for the Start screen, better multimonitor support, improvements in the way people can find and download apps through the Windows Store, and new features for family safety.

The latest version of Internet Explorer 10, which is included in Windows 8, is as fast and fluid as any app, Microsoft claims, and has been optimized for touch. New capabilities such as flip ahead make IE 10 more intuitive. The browser integrates a touch-friendly and power-optimized version of Adobe Flash Player.

Microsoft will continue refining Windows 8 even in the RTM phase and will issue them as updates.

Outrage Over Do Not Track

IE 10 also includes a Do-Not-Track feature that will be turned on by default.

This has drawn fire from the Association of National Advisers, which complains that the feature will increase the cost of online advertising and deprive consumers of choice.

“The Microsoft approach assumes they know what consumers want, and we know from the fact that millions of people have come to our online behavioral advertising website and most don’t opt out, that this type of assumption built into this new proposal is misguided,” Dan Jaffe, group executive vice president of government relations at the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), told TechNewsWorld.

However, some consumers have previously made it clear they don’t want to be tracked online. The issue has motivated the Federal Trade Commission to issue a privacy report in December 2010 suggesting the implementation of a do-not-track mechanism. In March this year, the FTC issued its final report on protecting consumer privacy. It said it would work with browser vendors, the World Wide Web Consortium and the Digital Advertising Alliance on completing the implementation of a do-not-track system.

Twitter has also adopted the do-not-track option.

Playing With Window 8 Release Preview

Consumers who want to download and install the latest Windows 8 preview should be at least a little tech-savvy, as it’s pre-release software, Microsoft warned. The company doesn’t offer tech support for pre-release software.

Users’ PCs could crash and they could lose important files when they install Win 8 Release Preview, and Microsoft says they shouldn’t use the OS on their primary home or business PC.

Read the Windows 8 Release Preview FAQ here before downloading and installing the OS.

Microsoft hasn’t said when exactly a final version of Windows 8 will be available for purchase, but on Friday it announced that consumers who purchase an eligible Windows 7 PC may upgrade to Win 8 Pro for about US$15 until the end of February 2013.

Changes and Other Issues

Microsoft claims that its Windows 8 Release Preview incorporates tens of thousands of changes.

“Windows is a massive product, and the team working on it is equally massive, resulting in lots of changes as it comes to market,” Enderle said. “Tens of thousands of changes wouldn’t be unusual.”

Although it looks as if Microsoft has issued two pre-releases of Windows 8, this is actually the result of its renaming its release process, Directions on Microsoft’s Cherry told TechNewsWorld.

“The way I look at this, the first release of Windows 8 was called a developer preview,” Cherry explained. “In the old terminology, we’d probably have called that an ‘alpha.’ Then they released a consumer preview, and we would’ve called it a ‘beta’. Now they’re at the release candidate stage.”

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