MANILA, Philippines — If you can no longer wait for the reported releases of Microsoft’s next-generation operating system by the last quarter of this year, the software giant is giving users a sneak preview through the Windows 8 Release Preview offering.
Aside from the Release Preview version of Windows 8, Microsoft also announced on Friday the upgrade path to the next Windows OS for users who bought their Windows 7-powered system from today up to January 31, 2013.
In a development stage that’s only a step away from the final version that will be sent to manufacturing, the Release Preview will give users the ability to toy with the much talked about Metro UI of Windows 8, among other enhancements.
Microsoft said they have also integrated new apps for the Release Preview, including Bing Travel, News and Sports apps, as well as Gaming and Music Xbox apps.
“The Windows 8 Release Preview also features notable improvements to the Mail, Photos and People apps that initially debuted with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview,” the company said, adding that they are partnering with developers around the world to create apps that will be sold through the Windows Store.
But beyond the new apps from Microsoft and partners, Microsoft said customers testing the Windows 8 Release Preview would also experience tens of thousands of refinements across the product.
These changes include increased personalization options for the Start screen, improved multi-monitor support, refinements to the way people find and download apps through the Windows Store, and new Family Safety features.
The Redmond, Washington-based software maker also detailed upgrade options for consumers who bought Windows 7-based PCs in 131 markets before the official Windows 8 release, saying that they can purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro version for just about $14.99.
Slapped with an end-2012 release date, Windows 8 is already being anticipated by hardware vendors and consumers alike, with outlook for the PC market getting brighter as the release date of Microsoft’s new operating system nears.
Analysts are already seeing heightened PC market activity around the time of the Windows 8 release, as PC makers prepare their arsenal of notebooks, tablets, and desktop PCs that will be fitted with the new OS.
“We expect vendors, retailers, and channel partners to be working very hard this year to focus their product lines and their general operations as they prepare for the year-end holiday season, because that alone will likely determine if there is any growth at all in the U.S. market in 2012,” said Loren Loverde, IDC vice president of Worldwide Consumer Device Trackers. (http://www.interaksyon.com/infotech/in-anticipation-of-new-intel-chip-windows-8-global-pc-growth-slows-in-q1)
Windows 8 will also be Microsoft’s latest stab in staying relevant in a technology landscape increasingly being dominated by new devices with sleeker and more mobile form factors, such as smartphones and tablets.