Windows 8 Consumer Preview now available

The final beta of Microsoft’s new operating system has been released.

The company chose the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain as the official launch venue. Before this iteration, no one would have thought of a mobile trade show as a place for Windows, but this new platform is a brand new experience with mobile at its core.

In fact, some have criticized the OS as being “too optimized” for the mobile environment, because of features like touch controls that simply won’t work on a traditional PC. So Microsoft is working on striking the perfect balance so that it can please the traditional segment and the mobile-centric segment at the same time.

There will be two versions of Windows 8 – one for desktops and one for tablets – but both should function pretty much the same. Things like an app store and highly customizable interfaces will make the new version unlike anything Microsoft has released for a computing product before.

As part of the launch, Nvidia confirmed today that it will be distributing test PC units to developers powered by the Tegra 3 quad-core mobile processor. “We’re furthering this tradition by helping to realize the extraordinary potential of Windows on ARM processors, like Tegra 3,” the company said in a statement.

The most distinct aspect of Windows 8 is what’s known as the “Metro UI,” which allows users to have complete customization on their home page, including widgets, RSS readers, weather information, date/time, etc.

In addition, since this is such a revolutionary new platform, Microsoft wants to scrap out all remnants of the “old-school” look and feel. Instead of a Start bar, hovering your mouse over that corner of the screen will allow you to swap between the Metro UI and the traditional desktop. For the mobile version of Windows 8, the Metro UI will be the default interface.

The beta download is available now, and tips the scales at a little over 3 GB.