Windows 8 beta set to launch in next few weeks

Windows 8 is heading rapidly toward its Consumer Preview release, with new details emerging about its interface

Microsoft is prepping to release its Consumer Preview of Windows 8 (also known as the beta) sometime in the next few weeks. And although many details of the upcoming operating system have already been revealed, a few new leaks suggest that the company has some radical new alterations in store for users.

Chief among these, possibly, is the loss of the Start button that long occupied the left-bottom corner of the Windows desktop. According to The Verge, which cited anonymous sources close to Microsofts Windows 8 development, the Start button that first appeared in Windows 95 is gone, having been replaced by a hot corner and a thumbnail-like user interface that offers previews of where you will navigate to after clicking on the new visual element.

Either touch or mouse input will activate this new interface. In contrast to past versions of the operating system, Windows 8 will feature a start-screen of large, colorful tiles linked to applicationsthe better to touch, in the case of tablets. Users will also have the option of flipping to a more traditional desktop interface.

Through its official channels, Microsoft also provided some additional details about Windows 8. According to the companys Building Windows 8 blog, the beta will feature the ability to easily pin your favorite folders to Start, a minimized user-interface ribbon, and added hotkey information to the tooltips of relevant buttons.

Microsoft is actively tweaking Windows 8 in response to user feedback from the Developer Preview and its blog postings. It has also adjusted the copy operation to pause in the event of system hibernation or sleep, and included a new option to the conflict-resolution dialog over two files with the same name.

By checking the box in the bottom left of the dialog, read a Jan. 30 note on the blog, you can filter out all files that match on name, size (down to the byte), and time (down to the granularity of the file system timestamp: 2 seconds for FAT, 100 nanoseconds for NTFS). The system will skip copying or moving these files.

If Microsoft ends up releasing the final version of Windows 8 late in 2012, it will be exactly three years since it launched Windows 7, which became a monster seller and, for many users, eliminated much of the bad odor associated with the much-maligned Windows Vista. However, the success of Windows 7 could also work against Windows 8, if users feel theyre upgraded too recently to consider doing so again.

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