Microsoft has released several beta versions of upcoming products. You are probably already downloading the Windows 8 Consumer Preview that was released about an hour ago. The release marks the beginning of the beta phase of the operating system. Windows Server 8 Beta, Visual Studio 11 Beta and Microsoft .Net Framework 4.5 Beta have been released today as well. This article links to downloads for all released beta versions, and looks briefly at the changes and feature additions in those versions.
The Consumer Preview release was announced on Microsoft’s official Building Windows 8 blog. The post highlights what’s different in comparison to the developer preview version released last year:Windows Store – Microsoft has integrated a preview version of the Windows Store in the Consumer Preview version of Windows 8.Cloud Support – Cloud services in the form of Skydrive have been integrated into Windows 8. This can be used to sync settings and files between devices efficiently.Internet Explorer Platform Preview 5 – A new preview version of IE10 has been integrated into the beta.Microsoft has completed the “user experience for touch, keyboard, and mouse” in this release.
The system recommendations have been posted as well:1 GHz or faster processor1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
Microsoft notes that these are not system requirements and not final.
Windows Server 8 Beta
The Windows Server 8 Beta has been released today as well.
Windows Server “8″ is the broadest, most scalable and elastic platform for web and applications. Its consistent, open set of tools and frameworks give developers the flexibility to build and deploy applications on-premises, in the cloud, and in a hybrid environment. Windows Server “8″ will empower you to deliver:
Flexibility to build on-premises and in the cloud: Developers can use the same languages and tools to build on-premises and cloud applications, allowing them to build applications that use distributed and temporally decoupled components.
An open web platform: Windows Server “8″, combined with Internet Information Services (IIS), offers a solid platform for both open-source web stacks and ASP.NET, opening up a wide range of choices for application development.
A scalable and elastic web platform: Hosting providers can use new features in Windows Server “8″ to increase density, simplify management, and achieve higher scalability in a shared web-hosting environment.
More Information: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/v8-default.aspx
System Requirements:Processor: Minimum: 1.4 GHz 64bit processorMemory: Minimum: 512 MB RAMAvailable Disk: Space Minimum: 32 GB Note: 32 GB should be considered an absolute minimum value for successful installation. Computers with more than 16 GB of RAM will require more disk space for paging, hibernation, and
Visual Studio 11 Beta
Visual Studio 11 comes with many feature additions and improvements. It includes support for Windows 8 and web development.
Reduced toolbar commands. To help free up precious workspace, Microsoft has reduced the number of default commands that show on toolbars in the user interface. These commands can still be accessed through the drop-down menus or added back onto the toolbar if the user wants them, but now the default work area is significantly larger. For example, the cut, copy and paste toolbar commands were removed because research has shown that most developers use the keyboard shortcuts instead.Simplified graphics. “Visual Studio 11” eliminates the use of color within tools except in cases where color is used for notification or status change purposes. Now, the user interface competes far less with the developer’s content. Other user interface graphics, such as line work and iconography, also have been simplified to be less distracting.Comprehensive search. “Visual Studio 11” features a comprehensive search capability, allowing developers to quickly find what they are looking for within commands and configuration options, tool windows, and open files.Workflow hubs. New workflow hubs combine common tasks into one simplified window. Rather than force developers to interact with two or more tool windows to get tasks done, ”Visual Studio 11” streamlines common tasks so that many can be accomplished from within a single window.Preview Tabs. Developers can view the contents of documents using new Preview Tabs, which get reused as the developer works. As a result, developers no longer end up with large numbers of extraneous documents open as a byproduct of common tasks such as debugging or browsing results.
It includes the Team Foundation Server Express Beta, a free collaboration software for small teams.
Microsoft .Net Framework 4.5 Beta
The Microsoft .Net Framework 4.5 Beta improves the framework in many different ways. Core enhancements include:Languages. To help developers deliver responsive clients and scalable servers, the C# and Visual Basic languages now have built-in support for writing asynchronous code almost as easily as if it were synchronous. And to help developers tackle data-complex problems, F# integrates Type Providers to make data access trivial in F# programs and components.Performance. The Common Language Runtime has been overhauled to provide better performance, in particular for server applications and services. With additions such as background server garbage collection, multicore background JIT compilation and profile-guided optimization, managed applications can now start faster and run with better throughput and lower latency.Networking. With the proliferation of devices and continuous services in the cloud, .NET Framework 4.5 builds upon the high-quality networking libraries already available in .NET to further enable the development of increasingly connected applications. New support spans from modern HTTP libraries to WebSockets to support for contract-first service development.
Closing Words: Four new beta releases in one day may seem overkill, even for a company like Microsoft. The servers seem to be capable of handling the traffic right now. It remains to be seen though if it stays this way or if they will slow down to a crawl eventually when more users start to download the beta versions.
Have you download and tried a beta version yet? If so, what is your impression so far?