The final public version of Windows 8 before launch has arrived, with updated features and a renewed push by Microsoft to persuade buyers its BYOD tools make it fit for business.
Microsoft has released the Windows 8 Release Preview, the final public version of the operating system before it goes on sale later in the year. Screenshot: Seth Rosenblatt/CNET News
As expected, Windows 8 Release Preview — Build 8400 — was pushed out by Microsoft to the public in 14 languages on Thursday. The final version is expected to be launched before November, so that it can be included in computers sold for Christmas.
"The Release Preview includes tens of thousands of improvements since the Windows 8 Consumer Preview build, including more personalisation options for the Start screen and improved multi-monitor support," Microsoft's Erwin Visser, senior director for Windows, wrote in a post to the Windows for Your Business blog. "This milestone signifies the final phase of development before Windows 8 is released to manufacturing and made available through Volume Licensing."
Windows 8 will give businesses the experiences people love and the enterprise-grade solutions IT departments need.– Erwin Visser, Microsoft
Microsoft took the opportunity of the launch to say again that the operating system is suited to corporate use, with a nod to the 'bring your own device' trend.
"Windows 8 will give businesses the experiences people love and the enterprise-grade solutions IT departments need," Visser said.
For example, the OS comes with new features for working remotely, locking down security anywhere and booting from a USB stick using the Windows To Go feature. In addition, it has touch interfaces even for enterprise applications built in the new Metro user interface, Visser said.
However, Microsoft encouraged companies still on Windows XP to upgrade to Windows 7, rather than jump now to Windows 8, as the preceding operating system is more mature.
"We encourage you to accelerate your move to Windows 7 to experience dramatic savings and functionality over Windows XP," he said. "It's also a good time to consider a proof-of-concept or small pilot for Windows 8 so you can experience first hand the business benefits enabled by the new capabilities described above."
The USB-boot Windows To Go feature is a neat way for businesses to load a secure Windows OS onto any device, going by the hands-on look ZDNet UK got at CeBit earlier this year. Furthermore, by layering the Metro user interface over typical business applications, Microsoft envisages that people can manipulate data in more intuitive touch-oriented ways.
Microsoft also said that Adobe Flash Player is now fully integrated into IE 10. However, ZDNet UK's sister site CNET News reported that the Flash capability was not ready when it saw the software.
With the release of the Windows 8 Release Preview, Microsoft will continue gathering data on the operating system and will use this to make changes to the codebase to let the OS "maintain a quality level higher than Windows 7", Microsoft's Windows president Steven Sinofsky wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
If all goes to plan, the operating system could be released to manufacturing [RTM] before the end of July.
"If the feedback and telemetry on Windows 8 and Windows RT match our expectations, then we will enter the final phases of the RTM process in about two months," Sinofsky said. "If we are successful in that, then we are tracking to our shared goal of having PCs with Windows 8 and Windows RT available for the holidays."
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