Microsoft has announced the availability of Windows 8 public beta at a "Windows 8 Consumer Preview" event at Mobile World Congress 2012.

Start screen for Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Microsoft has treated us to a first glimpse of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview following an invite-only event at Mobile World Congres in Barcelona.

Windows 8 is Windows reimagined and reinvented. It's an all-new touch interface. It's a new Windows for new devices. And now it's your chance to be one of the first to try it out.

Since unveiling Windows 8 to the world in their Developer Preview, Microsoft has made in excess of 100,000 significant product changes.

Download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview here.

Downloading and installing

Windows 8 has been made to work on a variety of form factors - it caters for a wide range of different platforms and inputs, you can use it on a laptop, ultrabook, your home PC and tablet.

The Consumer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows 7:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: MicrosoftDirectX 9 graphics device or higher

To use touch, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch. To access the Windows Store and to download and run apps, you need an active Internet connection and a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768.

Windows Store with new apps

As previously reported, Windows Store will form part of Windows 8. From within the Store you'll be able to download both free and paid apps (with the option of downloading a trial) much like you would on a modern smartphone.

A number of apps also come preinstalled, there are apps for Mail, Calendar, Photo, Contacts and Storage. There is also an app to manage connections across cloud services (SkyDrive et al).

Internet Explorer 10

The browser has been reimagined to create a new experience designed specifically for Windows 8 devices. Internet Explorer 10 provides an edge-to-edge user interface that is all about less browser and more web. Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview 5 is a fascinating insight into the future of Microsoft's browser.

Connect to the cloud

An optional additional sign-on with a Microsoft account provides access to a host of features, including the ability to roam all settings, use cloud storage, communicate with email, calendar and contacts, and connect to a broad range of services. Your connection to the cloud works across your Windows-based PCs and your Windows Phones.

Download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview here.