No strings attached, Microsoft released the developer version of Windows 8, its follow-up to the popular Windows 7 operating system, as well as a suite of tools for, obviously, developers.
This download may not be for you. Developer versions are betas of betas, designed to give developer's ideas and a heads-up regarding upcoming changes to the operating system so they can be ready with updates and new projects by the time the final version ships. But it does open a window into Windows, so to speak, and help settle a few debates - like whether Windows 8 will be the best thing ever, or destroy Microsoft once and for all.
Seriously, that's the debate. John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine - one of the most senior of all the high-tech pundits out there, suggested back in June that the graphic user interface of Windows 8 - which is optimized for tablets and similar to the Windows Phone 7 "Metro" interface (but is perfectly usable by keyboard and mouse purists as well) - "will essentially kill desktop computing once and for all - at least for Microsoft."
Then he wrote, "I've been waiting for quite some time to see Microsoft do something incredibly stupid that would open the door so Linux could waltz in and take over the desktop."
As for the fact that Windows 8 will look like their phone and tablet operating system? "The basic thesis that people want exactly the same look and feel across all their personal platforms in frankly idiotic."
Harsh words from a critic who really does know a thing or two about computers. And while history could ultimately prove Dvorak right, the buzz just three months later suggests that he couldn't be more wrong.
As soon as the developer version was made available, complete with a demo at Microsoft's "Build" conference, reviews and user videos that have popped up around the web have generally been positive, with reviewers using both PCs and tablets.
There was some confusion whether the software would be perfectly portable between desktops/laptops and tablets/phones, but Microsoft - after some misleading comments - said it would not be the case, as phones and tablets use completely different processor architecture and have issues to consider like file size and battery life. What remains to be seen is how easily software can be ported between the two systems, which, although they will look alike on the outside, will be very different on the inside.
But that's all academic. You can't run an app made for the iPhone on an Apple computer either.
Ars Technica said that most people will like and use the tile system and the alternative - using a Start window similar to Windows 7, Vista, XP, etc. - will at least be familiar enough that the transition will be more or less seamless.