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Windows 8 launches in preview mode

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(Read caption) Microsoft launched a consumer preview of Windows 8 today. Here, a Microsoft store in San Diego.

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Microsoft today took the wraps off Windows 8, the latest iteration of its popular operating system, and the first to be designed as a cross-platform OS – on traditional desktops, laptops, and on tablets. Users interested in getting a sneak peek of the OS, which will likely launch later in 2012, can navigate to this page, and download a preview version of the software. 

"[The preview] represents a work in progress, and some things will change before the final release," Microsoft's Kent Walter wrote in a blog post today. "This means you’ll encounter some hiccups and bugs. One of the great things about widely releasing a preview like this is that it gives us a chance to get a lot of feedback through telemetry, forums, and blog posts on where we can smooth out some of the rough edges."

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Windows 8 has been described as a mash-up of "Windows Phone, iPad and traditional desktop Windows." The OS features the Metro interface, a tiled-layout intended to appeal to users accustomed to uncluttered smartphone and tablet screens. Microsoft clearly hopes Windows 8 will appeal to a fresh generation of users. 

Of course, as Edward C. Baig notes at USA Today, "the stakes for Microsoft and the entire computing ecosystem are enormous. This new era is built around tablets as much as traditional laptops and desktops, and multi-touch as much as the keyboard and mouse. At the same time Microsoft marches toward Windows 8, archrival Apple is revving up a new version of Mac OS X called Mountain Lion," Baig adds

Like Windows 8, Mountain Lion, scheduled for launch this summer, incorporates several features from the mobile sphere. Among them: a "Game Center" and a new "Messages" program – an app that appeared first on the Apple iPhone. In other words, both Mountain Lion and Windows 8 demonstrate the increasing convergence of mobile and desktop operating systems – a trend likely to continue apace for next few years. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

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