Microsoft last night announced that Windows 8 Release Preview is available for download in 14 languages – the final pre-release before the official launch of the new OS.
Writing in the Windows 8 blog last night, Microsoft’s software chief Steve Sinofsky explained: “This is our final pre-release and includes Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10, new Windows 8 apps for connecting to Hotmail, SkyDrive and Messenger (and many more) and hundreds of new and updated apps in the Windows Store.
“Since our first preview in September, millions of people now use the pre-release product on a daily basis and millions more have been putting it through its paces, totalling hundreds of millions of hours of testing.”
The next milestone is release to manufacturing and from today Sinofsky said Microsoft will be applying the final changes before release, relying heavily on telemetry built into the product from setup through usage to guide these final changes.
The preview of Windows 8 is available for download online.
Since the February release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which was downloaded more than 1m times in the first 24 hours, Windows 8 has become the most-tested Microsoft operating system of all time, and with today’s release, it enters its final phase of development before it releases to manufacturing.
New apps in Windows 8
Windows 8 Release Preview delivers new apps from Microsoft and partners. Highlights include Bing Travel, News and Sports apps, as well as Gaming and Music Xbox apps that integrate with Zune pass.
Microsoft said 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. In addition, Microsoft has worked closely with its partners to deliver apps from around the world through the Windows Store.
It said users testing the Windows 8 Release Preview will also experience tens of thousands of refinements across the product, such as increased personalisation options for the Start screen, improved multimonitor support, refinements to the way people find and download apps through the Windows Store, and new Family Safety features.
The new Internet Explorer 10 is optimised, in particular, for touch-enabled devices.
On 2 June, Microsoft will roll out the Windows Upgrade Offer in 131 markets, including the US and Canada.
Microsoft said consumers who buy Windows 7-based PCs up to 31 January 2013 can purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of US$14.99.