Developers and IT pros can now get their hands on an evaluation version of Microsoft's new operating system.
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Microsoft has released a version of Windows 8 that developers and other IT pros can use free of charge for 90 days in order to test the new OS, which represents the most radical redesign of Windows since Windows 95.
The Windows 8 Enterprise Edition 90-day evaluation program makes the OS available as an ISO image in 32-bit or 64-bit editions. In addition to English, it's available in Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean, and several other languages.
Developers can access the software through the Windows Dev Center developer downloads page. "This is intended for developers building Windows 8 apps and IT professionals interested in trying Windows 8 Enterprise on behalf of their organization," Microsoft states.
Trial versions of Windows 8 Enterprise are also available through MSDN subscriptions, the Microsoft Partner Network, TechNet professional subscriptions, and Microsoft's Volume Licensing and Software Assurance programs. The product must be activated online within 10 days of installing.
The evaluation edition expires in 90 days and cannot be upgraded to the full version. It has to be uninstalled before systems can be upgraded. "Consider running the evaluation edition in a virtual environment or installing on a separate hard drive or partition," Microsoft says. "This will allow you to upgrade your original Windows installation to Windows 8."
Microsoft said it will not provide technical support for the evaluation edition. "Back up your files and settings before installing this evaluation and again prior to the 90-day expiration," the company cautioned.
Windows 8 will be available to the public on Oct. 26, with a range of systems expected to be on sale from vendors like Lenovo, Asus, and Dell. Microsoft's own Surface tablet will also hit store shelves on that date.
Windows 8 will come in two main editions. One for x86-based desktops, laptops, and tablets, and another, Windows RT, that's built mainly to run on tablets powered by mobile-friendly ARM chips. With Windows RT, Microsoft hopes to finally become a player in the media tablet market, where it significantly trails Apple and Google Android.
Not all of Microsoft's Windows hardware partners have bought into Windows RT, however. Notable exceptions include Hewlett-Packard and Acer. HP plans to build tablets that run Windows 8 on Intel Atom chips. Acer, for its part, has criticized Microsoft for its decision to build Surface, which effectively puts it into competition with its OEMs.
Consumers who want to get their hands on Windows 8 prior to October 26 can download the Release Preview from Microsoft's Web site.
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