Windows 8 Consumer Preview Beta Launches Today with Live Barcelona Event

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At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft is going on stage to present the next beta of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system to the public. We’ll be updating this post with the news as it happens, so stay tuned for coverage of the event.

Microsoft is only just now taking the stage, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about what to expect from the consumer build of Windows 8. Yesterday, the company posted the Windows 8 Consumer Preview Product Guide for Business that details some of the business-oriented features of the upcoming Windows 8 CP build.

Speaking of builds, what version of the software can we expect? According to Winunleaked.TK, who managed to get their hands on the software, it’s going to be build 8250 – a significant update from the dev build’s 8120. Furthermore, Microsoft will be posting that software for everyone and their mother to download sometime this morning – likely before noon EST.

 

Windows 8 Windows Next

If you want to prepare to install the software, check out our guide on how to download and install Windows 8 from USB or DVD. That guide features the developer build of the software, but just download the consumer preview here in a little bit and follow the rest of the steps.

Windows head Steven Sinofsky just announced that the company has taken “a new approach to building Windows 8″ and promised that there have been over 100,000 code changes to the software since the launch of the developer preview late last year

Microsoft just updated the Windows 8 download page! You can download the Consumer Preview right now! Go here for more details: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/download.

In Barcelona, the company is making a big deal about how everything in Windows 8 is cloud connected. That’s the right move for Microsoft, who with Windows 8 forces non-enterprise users to use a Microsoft account for their basic login name and password. That way the company can track store purchases, settings, email and more across multiple computers.

For OS X users, it would be like logging into your computer with your iTunes account.

Microsoft is talking about how much better touch and multitouch capabilities are in Windows 8 over every other generation of their operating system. For the first time, the company is extending its platform to consumer-friendly touch devices, and that means rethinking how users interact without a mouse or keyboard.

Redmond is also taking the opportunity to push new social functionality into the OS – new Metro-inspired Contacts apps, Messaging apps and more put all of your contact’s information in one easy-to-access place.

If you’re worried about how Metro apps will be able to live with traditional ‘Desktop’ apps, have no fear.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

You’ll easily be able to dock all of those gorgeous applications right alongside the ones you use now. And get ready – since the Windows 8 app store is launching, you’ll shortly have more Metro apps than you know what to do with.

Microsoft is showing off how well Windows 8 runs on the outstanding Lenovo IdeaCentre A720. Remember the 27-inch, 10-finger multitouch beast that they showed off at CES? No? Check out our hands-on coverage for a terrific reminder:

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720

Windows 8 Consumer Preview also incorporates Microsoft’s new “Storage Spaces” into the operating system. The older, awesome and underrated Windows Home Server devices were the genesis of the concept. Basically, you can add storage – of all kinds – to your computer. Big hard drives, little hard drives, SSDs, USB flash drives, etc., etc. – and you don’t have to manage any of it. 

Windows 8 Consumer Preview Storage Spaces

Add your new drives and run the Storage Spaces wizard. It can link up all of your free space and showcase it as a single, unified drive. The feature was actually removed from Windows Home Server and the geeks cried out in protest…only to see it return for Windows 8. One of the fun aspects of Storage Spaces is that you can select specific files to be stored onto two physically distinct drives. That way if one files, you have an immediate backup stored somewhere. Think of it as a soft RAID.

While Microsoft has ended its press talk in Barcelona, the new features of Windows 8 are still coming in hot and heavy. Newly introduced in the Consumer Preview are items like the Microsoft Store, where you can buy lots of new Metro apps, an updated version of Internet Explorer 10, new Messaging and Metro Mail apps, Calendar, Contacts, People, Storage Spaces and more. Lots has changed since the launch of the dev. preview a few months ago.

Stop back later today to check out our in-depth impressions of the new Windows 8 Consumer Preview!

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