A day earlier than expected the Windows 8 Release Preview is ready for download. What has changed and is it enough?
Many regard Windows 8 as a brilliant idea - but almost as many seem to think that it is proof that Microsoft just isn't thinking straight, or at all. Now we have the Release Preview to download it we have the opportunity to look at the nearly finished code and user experience.
It has been around nine months since the whole project became public and the speed of development is impressive. This is no simple upgrade as WinRT is the first new Windows sub-system since the Win32API was introduced with Windows 98.
Most of the changes in the Release Preview from the beta are fairly minor and do not affect any main systems. We have some new apps and the news that IE10 will handle Flash - but not as a plug-in. IE10 now has the ability to display Flash content natively. It isn't clear at the moment how compatible the feature is, but it does mean that Windows 8 tablet users can view Flash-based websites and advertising. Another surprise move is that, by default, do not track is turned on in IE10. My guess is that this will change before the final release so as not to upset the advertising industry.
It is a concession to reality that Flash is supported in IE10 and, of course, Microsoft's own plug-in Silverlight isn't supported, at all. Could it be a last act of defiance that the video at the top of the Windows 8 Release Preview home page is served up to Firefox, Chrome and IE9 as a Silverlight movie?
So what is a Release Preview?
This is a good question. Microsoft says that on the one hand not much will change before the final release, perhaps just some artwork, but on the other hand it also claims that there is scope for some surprises.
So I suppose we have to conclude that Release Preview means "unfinished code".