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Windows 8 Consumer Preview Hits 1 Million Downloads

The latest version of Windows is a dramatic departure from previous versions of Microsoft's trademark OS

Microsoft's Windows 8 Consumer Preview saw more than one million downloads during the first day of its release, the Building Windows 8 team said via Twitter late Thursday. The beta version of Windows 8 posted on Wednesday morning; it's not clear whether the first million downloads occurred within or just beyond the first 24 hours of availability. Microsoft recorded three million downloads of the Windows 8 Developer Preview between September and December, 2011.

The latest version of Windows is a dramatic departure from previous versions of Microsoft's trademark OS. Most notably, the decades old PC desktop has been kicked from its perch as the main Windows interface in favor of a touch-centric Start screen that echoes Windows Phone 7. "Windows 8 reimagines Windows, from the chipset to the experience," said Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division.

iPad Challenger, PC Dud?

Expectations are high that Windows 8 (also designed for ARM SoCs) will enable tablet manufacturers to mount a serious challenge to Apple's iPad, which Android tablets have so far failed to do. Whether Windows 8 will be a big winner on traditional PCs, however, is unclear. Microsoft says Windows 8 is just as easy to use with a mouse as it is with a touchscreen, but it requires users to learn a new way of navigating a Windows PC.

The start button is replaced with a hot corner that kicks you back to the new Metro-style touch-friendly Start screen. From there you can choose to open traditional desktop apps or use some of the new Metro apps such as Xbox LIVE Games, Maps, and a Metro-style Internet Explorer. 

PC users will also have to be content with full-screen programs when using Metro-style apps, and must learn how to use the new Charms Bar on the far right of the Windows 8 display. The Charms Bar includes important system functions such as Settings, Search, settings for devices connected to your computer, and a new social-networking friendly Share button.

Windows 8 does offer some new features for PC desktop users, including a revamped file transfer dialog box, tools to deal with duplicate files, faster boot times, and new SkyDrive integration with Windows Explorer (not yet available in the Consumer Preview).

But the main focus for Microsoft in Windows 8 is the touch experience, while the desktop has been turned into a second-class citizen. That appears to be Microsoft's plan for the moment, anyway.  The reaction of regular PC users to Windows 8's radical departure is unclear.

Nevertheless, the large numbers of Windows 8 Consumer Preview downloads suggests, at the very least, that users are interested in checking out the newest version of Windows. Also see "15 Awesome Windows 8 'Metro-Style' Apps.")

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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