…And what a journey it’s been. The Windows 8 ‘journey’ began in CES 2011, I think, when Microsoft announced it would let the next version of Windows run on ARM chips. They showed it off, but on the Windows 7 interface (which is not suitable for touch) and it was clear there would be several interface changes.
Later in 2011 – June – Microsoft revealed to the world an early peek at the new, metro interface, and their vision that 1 user experience could be on tablets, hybrids, touch screens and traditional desktops/laptops, which is different to the traditional (as in Apple/Google) one tablet/phone OS, one desktop OS. Microsoft took the different approach of having one phone OS and one OS for everything else. Not that much was actually explained though, leaving a lot of questions unanswered.
A lot of those questions were answered, though, in September 2011 at the Build conference. Microsoft did many demos, and released the first publicly available preview to download, called the Developer Preview. It was buggy and incomplete, but it gave the world the first real taste of what’s to come.
Microsoft released the beta of Windows 8 – called the Consumer Preview - at MWC in February 2012. This was a significantly improved version of Windows 8 and intended, in case you hadn’t guessed, at the consumer market more than just developers (the idea with the DP was really just for devs to start building apps). Along with this release came the opening of the Windows Store, a place for consumers to easily buy/download metro-style apps for their PCs.
Before the next preview release – more on that in the next paragraph – came some important information about Windows 8 versions and naming. Surprisingly, the name “Windows 8″ was still officially a codename up to this point. And the ARM version was called “Windows on ARM” before this point. But the blog post announced that Windows 8 was the official name, and WOA was actually called Windows RT for some reason. There were 2 editions for the non-ARM version announced, different from the many, many versions of Windows 7 – Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. Availability was not announced at this time.
On 31 May 2012, Microsoft released the final preview release of Windows 8 – called the Release Preview. Some called it the release candidate, but technically it was not. An RC is typically feature complete and with a few bugs. The RP was not feature complete, and I’ve actually found it to be a little more buggy than the CP occasionally. But it was still a pretty accurate look at the final version of Windows 8.
Availability and special offers was announced next – RTM is the first week of August, TechNet/MSDN subscribers get it in August sometime and General Availability is on 26th October 2012 - this is when you will be able to buy Windows upgrades, and buy new PCs with Windows 8 installed. Microsoft also announced a $15 Windows 8 Pro upgrade offer for people who’ve bought new PCs recently, and a limited-time $40 Windows 8 Pro upgrade offer for people who’ve got a valid Windows XP/Vista/7 license.
So that’s the Windows 8 journey – quite a long one, as with most Windows operating systems. I’ve personally used Windows 8 since the Consumer Preview in late February as my full-time OS, and I’ve loved using it (it really doesn’t require a touch screen). My only regret is not trying the Developer Preview! But now the question is how will people respond to it? You may have seen the videos on YouTube showing how hard the Consumer Preview could be to use for the first name – it’s improved slightly in the Release Preview, but Microsoft really needs to have put some good tutorials in the final release. If they do that, and people ignore all the rubbish about it ‘needing’ a touch screen (it doesn’t), then I think it will work well with consumers. As for businesses… well, that’s a completely different story…