You, yes you, can now download a copy of Windows 8. This marks the first time that Microsoft has released a pre-beta version of one of their flagship programs to the general public. I wonder where they got that idea. Could it be from Linux? After all Linux distributions has been making early versions available to the public since Linux started 20-years ago.
The Windows 8 Developer Preview alpha build, was released shortly after 8 PM Eastern on Tuesday, September 13th. The last time, debuted a similar developers preview of Windows 7 in October 2008, the company limited the early look to attendees at its Professional Developers Conference (PDC). The unwashed general public to wait until next year for a beta . That failed. Copies were leaked to BitTorrent sites within hours.
This time Microsoft elected to cut out the middle man and just release the preview to everyone... just like Linux distributors.
In another Linux-style move, all three of the Windows 8 Developer Preview images are available in .iso format disk image. That means, if you're new to playing with new operating systems, that you'll need to burn those images to a DVD or a USB stick and then boot the operating system from them. Better, and safer, still run Windows 8 in a virtual machine environment such as the one provided by Oracle's VirtualBox.
So, why is Microsoft making even an alpha version of Windows available to the general public? I think Microsoft had two reasons. The first is that while they got some hype for Windows 7 by having it available semi-legally over the Internet, they also had to deal with corrupted public copies. That couldn't have been any fun. This way, they still get techies excited about their new forthcoming operating system, but they don't have to worry as much about junk copies of their operating system floating around.
The other reason is that Microsoft may be slow, but they're not stupid. They've noticed over the years that Linux developers gets enormous amount of valuable feedback from users with every release. While, Microsoft won't be open-sourcing Windows anytime this decade; they can certainly see the advantage of having potentially millions of early testers giving them feedback.
So, smart move Microsoft! I'm not sure it's going to be enough to save Windows 8 with its wonky Metro interface from suffering a Vista-like fate, but if you actually listen to all your new beta testers, you might yet turn Windows 8 into a success rather than a Windows ME or-The horror! The horror!-a Microsoft Bob experience.