UPDATED: Windows 8 Consumer Preview arrives

Microsoft has released a preview of Windows 8 this afternoon, opening up the next-generation OS to the public for the first time.

UPDATED: Windows 8 Consumer Preview arrives

Developer builds of Windows 8 have been available since Microsoft unveiled the next gen OS in Los Angeles in September. Today it released what it calls a Consumer Preview, which is to all intents and purposes the first beta of Windows 8.

Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed a release date for the OS, although PC manufacturers will be hoping it arrives before the end of the year and the busy Christmas shopping season. The software giant has, however, released a series of blog posts about how the OS will work.

The developer preview released in September was handed out on tablets to attendees of the Build conference, but the operating system has received its harshest criticism from those who installed on it regular PCs, largely due to way the the new Metro interface treats the desktop as an app. Microsoft has hinted that changes will be made to the Windows desktop in the Consumer Preview.

The consumer preview of Windows 8 can be downloaded here. The Metro apps store will also be unveiled today.

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