In Pictures: Microsoft releases Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Microsoft showed off its next version of the Windows operating system that powers most of the world's computers, highlighting the new touch interface powering the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview Start Screen

Windows 8's new Metro look is a massive change. The new interface sports tiles representing the applications on a computer or tablet; they change, flash and flip to bubble up new information, photos, status updates or other bits of data.

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview Weather App

The new Bing Weather application shows off the new look and feel of Windows 8: dynamic, full screen applications with new fonts and touch-friendly icons.

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview Photo App

The Photos application unifies the many places you store pictures: locally, on the cloud thanks to Microsoft SkyDrive, at Facebook or Flickr, and so on. 

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview Bing Finance App

The Bing Finance app also sports the Metro look and feel, and scrolls from right to left to reveal other financial data: financial indices such as the Dow or the NASDAQ, news, stock quotes and so on.

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview Bing Finance App 2

A second screen from the Bing Finance app. Tap the buttons beneath the chart to change the time frame from a day to a week, month, or year.

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview People App

Another new app, called People, collects all the status updates and news posts from your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. (Note the "App Preview" tag at top to indicate that Microsoft is still polishing things up.)

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview Split Keyboard

To facilitate the touch interface, Microsoft has built two new keyboards into Windows 8, including this innovative split design intended to be "thumbed" while you grip the sides of a tablet.

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The People app unifies all your friends and contacts, connecting to LinkedIn, Facebook, Hotmail, Google+ ... and offering to connect you to others, such as Twitter and Microsoft Exchange.

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Applications can be "sidelined" as the Bing Finance app is here. When correctly written, they change to expose certain types of information -- stock quotes here, rather than all of the information in the app. 

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Power users will appreciate the revamped task manager, which offers dynamic performance charts and a new look overall. 

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The following images, from the first video Microsoft released of the new user interface in late 2011, shows Microsoft reimagining the interface for a new generation of touch-centric hardware -- think tablets.

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Windows 8 will replace the Windows Start menu with a customizable tile-based Start screen -- a scalable full-screen view for fast launching of apps.

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These "live tiles" provide notifications in real-time, showing always up-to-date information for all apps.

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The new interface will allow for fluid, natural switching between running apps, Microsoft claims.

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The experience is enhanced with web-connected and web-powered apps built using HTML5 and Javascript.

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The ability to snap and resize apps allows a new level of multitasking and app integration.

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Windows 8 will be fully optimized for use with touch devices, notably tablets.

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Of course, the company hasn't forgotten about Microsoft Office, which fully integrates into the new operating system.

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There is also built-in social media functionality.

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Microsoft's development team promises to reveal more at their developer event, BUILD (Sept. 13 - 16 in Anaheim, Calif.).

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In Pictures: Microsoft releases Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Microsoft showed off its next version of the Windows operating system that powers most of the world's computers, highlighting the new touch interface powering the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

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