A new test version of Microsoft's flagship Windows 8 operating system -- expected to boost support for tech gizmos and let PC makers kick the tires of the forthcoming OS -- will be made available to the public in the first week of June, the company said Monday.
Microsoft President Steven Sinofsky announced the "Release Preview" of Windows 8 during an on-stage appearance at a developer event in Japan called Windows 8 Dev Days, spreading the news through a brief tweet on on the Building Windows 8 Twitter feed.
“Announce...Windows 8 Release Preview first week of June. Here's the announce from Japan's Windows 8 Dev Days #thankyou”, the company wrote on Twitter.
When contacted by FoxNews.com, a Microsoft spokesman declined to release more details about this test version of the software. But PCMag.com editor in chief Dan Costa said he expects the company to add support for more devices and move closer to a shipping version.
"The Windows 8 code we have seen so far is very stable, but it is missing a lot of driver support," Costa told FoxNews.com. "The Release Preview will most likely address some of these issues and give hardware vendors a chance to run something that is a lot closer to final code."
Microsoft made the Windows 8 Consumer Preview publicly available on February 29; over a million people downloaded that free early beta, the software giant said in March.
The pre-release version of the operating system -- available for free download at preview.windows.com -- introduces a completely new way to interact with your computer and an entirely new vision for the desktop, thanks to the tile-based “Metro” interface the company created for its Windows Phone platform.
Metro has been widely hailed for changing the way we think about smartphones, much as the iPhone did in 2007. Thanks to it, Windows 8 will actively present information to you from your first power on, via tiles that flip and transform by themselves rather than waiting for you to, say, launch a website and visit Facebook or open your inbox to check for new email.
“With Windows 8, we reimagined the different ways people interact with their PC and how to make everything feel like a natural extension of the device, whether using a Windows 8 tablet, laptop or all-in-one,” said Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft. “The Windows 8 Consumer Preview brings a no-compromises approach to using your PC.”
But critics have questioned how practical the touch-based interface will be on desktop and laptop computers, which largely lack touchscreen interfaces.
"Using a mouse and keyboard with the Metro interface is clunky," Costa told FoxNews.com. "Microsoft needs to make the touchpad experience effortless to succeed on laptops. For that, they need really solid driver support that we haven’t seen up to now."
The new test version of the OS will be Microsoft's chance to improve that experience, he said.
"The Release Preview will show how far Windows 8 has come—or how far it still has to go."