Overnight Microsoft has made Windows 8 Consumer Preview available for download, in multiple languages. I have downloaded the 64 bit ISO and installed it on a 60 GB virtual HDD under VMWare Player.
Tip: According to their FAQ, if you boot your PC from the media (ISO or USB key) then you will be asked for a product key. In this case use the key NF32V-Q9P3W-7DR7Y-JGWRW-JFCK8.
Installation was quick and had no problems with the virtual environment. You can chose to login using a local account, or your Windows Live Id. When using Windows Live Id your account information is automatically populated and things like Messaging (Windows Live Messenger), Mail, Calendar and Skydrive are ready to use.
You can at any time open Mail and add an Exchange or GMail account - in my case I added my Office 365 Exchange account.
The Weather tile quickly figured out I am in Wellington, New Zealand and is now showing the appropriate information. Bing Maps seems to have a bit of a problem searching locations outside the US though.
The interface works ok even without a touch screen, but it will get some time to get used to the different elements in the UI.
Like Windows Phone, the social permeates through the interface. If you open the People tile you will see all your contacts, pulled from Exchange, GMail, Twitter, Windows Live and going to What's New will show you the latest updates from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Clicking on a person's tile will show you ways to contact the person, latest updates and interactions, exactly like the Windows Phone does.
Obvsiouly, being a Consumer Preview it's advisable not to install this build if you are not comfortable with new technologies and the inherent problems it may carry. Mainly be aware that some hardware may not be supported due to lack of drivers, so if your PC is vital for your daily use consider installing this on spare hardware or virtual machine.
Other related posts:
Windows 8 Mail app not hyperlinking emails
Are we seeing the death of Windows RT?
Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 on Technet, MSDN now
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