Windows 8 Consumer Preview now available for download

Sure iPhones and iPads are made by Apple, but many if not most iOS users are also Windows users, and just today Microsoft has made their next-generation operating system available for test driving via the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

It's Windows reimagined and reinvented from a solid core of Windows 7 speed and reliability. It's an all-new touch interface. It's a new Windows for new devices. And it's your chance to be one of the first to try it out.

That all-new touch interface is Metro, brought over from Windows Phone 7 and designed to make everything from ultralight slates to full on desktops are easy and fun to use as Microsoft's mobile offerings have become.

It's a a similar end-goal if decidedly different approach than Apple is taking with iOS and the upcoming OS X Mountain Lion -- making computing more consistent and accessible to mainstream users.

Microsoft has a lot of good information -- and tons of videos -- up on their Windows 8 Consumer Preview website, including how to get started, rundowns of all the key features including apps, web, and the cloud, as well as an FAQ to help you out.

Windows 8 will also work on tablets, and on the same ARM-based chipsets that other mobile devices do, meaning it finally lets Microsoft field a true competitor to the iPad. Given Windows' massive install base, especially in enterprise, that could prove interesting. More interesting, however, is the clearly consumer-centric -- it's right there in the name -- focus of this preview. Microsoft is bringing the fight for mainstream computing right to Apple. And they're doing it with style.

How well do Metro and multitouch translate to the PC? Can mobile and desktop, finger and mouse pointer, really live together with no compromises at all? If you've got a spare box or room for another virtual machine, get the Consumer Preview, give it a spin, and let us know.

(Also let us know how iTunes works, or doesn't work, and how happy you are iOS has gone PC free!)

Download: Windows 8 Consumer Preview

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