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Microsoft has announced the first public version of Windows 8 operating system has hit one million downloads less than a day after it became available. The free consumer preview unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona gives anyone with Windows 7 the chance to sample the re-imagined OS. The windows 8 consumer preview will be followed by the final Gold build sometime this summer. Also released is the beta build of its upcoming Windows 8 Server OS.

Although Microsoft says the OS has been downloaded one million times, that doesn’t necessarily mean one million users have jumped on board. As one Twitter commenter says: “To be fair, I downloaded it something like 4 times.”

Windows 8 can be populated by dozens of applications, all of which will remain free until the commercial launch.  These include a redesigned version of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, games like Cut the Rope and the Vimeo video sharing site.  The new Metro interface, which was developed for smartphones, will bring the Windows 8 experience to tablets opening up an entirely new experience through navigation and a host of mobile-style touch friendly applications.

Windows 8 will use the cloud to store users’ preferences in the way they set up their computers – from home screen photos to the collection of apps or favourite websites. By signing in to any new Windows 8 device with a Microsoft ID, a user’s personalised desktop will be summoned up instantly rather than needing to be recreated.

Windows 8 may eventually make its way onto the living room screen. It is the first version of Windows adapted for the low power chips made by British company ARM Holdings that are present in 99% of all smartphones, tablets and even smart TVs.

Microsoft is touting the Server 8 platform as being built with virtualisation and cloud support in mind.  The code has version three of Windows’ virtualisation platform Hyper-V, which the company promises will be able to set up many more virtual systems on the same hardware.

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