The Consumer Preview of Windows 8 has been great. It has given us all a chance to get to know the operating system a little better. While this has resulted in the expected crop of doomsday predictions for Microsoft among people unhappy with the Metro interface and its emphasis on touch-based interface, it has also seemed to create an even greater increase in the number of people coming to accept the new OS as an improvement.
Now we will be getting a chance to try out a nearly complete iteration of Windows 8 in less than two months. During a Tokyo-based developer event, the president of Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Live division tweeted about a Windows 8 Release Preview happening during the first week of June. The phrasing is interesting and may indicate an accelerated time table for the Windows 8 launch.
Traditionally, this particular reveal would be referred to as the Release Candidate. Many will recall that Windows 7 went through a series of such candidates before it was ready for official distribution. While calling this a preview could easily just be an acknowledgement of the naming scheme used in the previous Developer’s Preview and Consumer Preview, it likely also indicates a degree of finality. One way or another, Microsoft is compelled to get their product out the door as soon as possible and any fixes can be made through Windows Update at launch, should the need arise.
This does not necessarily signal an inferior product. Anybody who has spent a fair amount of time with Windows 8 so far will be sure to note that while the UI may take some adjusting to it is otherwise an extremely powerful operating system that already performs the majority of its function quite well. Some have already begun using it as their primary desktop OS in preparation for the launch of the finished product. The Consumer Preview of Windows 8 has already been the most downloaded pre-release OS in Microsoft’s history and as such we can probably assume they have a fair amount of data collected to contribute to the debugging process.
Windows 8 is already running slightly behind the schedule that the Windows 7 release kept to. This could cause problems as time goes on, so a rush would not be at all unexpected at this point. In order to be ready for holiday sales this year, Microsoft has to have the RTM build done no later than October. Nobody wants to repeat the experience of Windows Vista, which failed to ship before January.
Assuming that Microsoft stays true to the sort of schedule used in the Windows 7 launch, look for the Windows 8 Release Preview on Tuesday, June 5th. It will be free, available to the public, and should give an even clearer image of the final product than what we have to look at today. It may also be the last big chance for pre-release input from consumer users and as such should not be missed.