As promised, Microsoft has released its Windows 8 Release Preview in the first week of June, with the comprehensive prerelease version available to download now.
The Windows 8 Release Preview replaces the Consumer Preview and is the final preview version for consumers before the final product is released.
According to Microsoft's website, the Windows 8 Release Preview "focuses on people and apps" and gives you "powerful new ways to use social technologies to connect with the people who are important to you". Which sounds to us like an odd opening gambit for a major OS release: it sounds more like a social networking site.
The accompanying Windows 8 Release Preview has a similar social theme:
The Windows 8 Release Preview adds a range of new Bing apps that cover Travel, News and Sports, improved multi-monitor support (compared to the Windows 8 Consumer Preview), enhanced online security tools, additional touch support for Internet Explorer 10 and a spit-and-polish to the Windows Store UI. Windows purists will also be interested to hear that the Start screen has been given extra personalisation options.
Microsoft recommends the following minimum hardware requirements for running Windows 8 Release Preview:
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
- RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
- Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
These more or less match the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 7. However, additional requirements are needed for certain features of the new OS, including a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch (if you want to use touch control), an active Internet connection (for Internet Explorer 10 Release Preview) and a screen resolution of 1366 x 768 (if you want to run, snap and resize two apps side-by-side).
Windows 8 Release Preview is only recommended for PC users who are comfortable backing up their system and have the appropriate recovery media to restore their operating system once they've finished testing.
As we've explained before, Windows 8 is a significant departure from Windows 7, with a much stronger emphasis on touch integration courtesy of the new 'Metro' tiled interface. Improvements over Microsoft's previous OS include a faster, more streamlined browser (in the shape of Internet Explorer 10), deeper customisation, improved multi-monitor support and the ability to connect to your data and settings wherever you sign in with a Microsoft account (read more here).
Microsoft has previously announced that it will launch three editions of Windows 8: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT. (Tablets, desktops and laptops using Intel/AMD x86 processors will be available under the Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro brands. Windows RT, meanwhile, will come pre-installed on ARM-powered devices.)
We'd like to hear your thoughts on Windows 8 Release Preview. Has Microsoft made enough improvements to the previous Consumer Preview to entice you? Add your opinion in the comments section below.