If you have been working with the Developer Preview of Windows 8, then the release of the Consumer Preview will be a bit of a yawn - but you still have to have it.
The first news is that it no longer comes configured for development. That is, the SDK, Visual Studio 11 Express Beta and other tools have to be installed as a separate step.
The Windows 8 CP can be downloaded and installed to a working machine but, if like most developers you need it running on a VM, the simples option is to download the ISO images. You can install over a existing beta or over Windows 7, but there is no roll back so take care. Booting from USB stick is also an option.
After installing the OS you will need the Tools and SDK download - 390M - which includes Visual Studio Express and Blend for Visual Studio. You can also install the full Visual Studio but if you are only interested in Windows 8 development the Express version is sufficient.
Other items you might like to install include:
Design Assets - common controls, shell components, contracts, tiles, toasts, icons, glyphs, animation clips, and color wheel reference for Windows 8
Sample app pack - with 200 samples
Live SDK -provides a set of controls
APIs that enable applications to integrate Single Sign On (SSO) with your Microsoft account and access information from SkyDrive, Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger
Also of interest are the remote tools, multilingual app tool and the advertising SDK.
The advertising SDK is for implementing ad powered Metro apps and it lets you select your advertising source - Microsoft or another agency.
The other news is that the app store opened, which is an interesting concept as part of a beta test of an OS. The whole point is that Windows 8 is two operating systems spliced together at the start menu. As far as Microsoft's expansion into tablets is concerned it is only Metro apps that count. When Windows 8 ARM or x86 tablets make it to the shelves, the only apps that they will all run are Metro apps. This is the simple reason that Windows 8 off the desktop depends on developers doing their thing and creating something new for Metro. At the moment there isn't much that would cause a user to buy a Windows 8 tablet, rather than an iPad or Android, but this could change.
It is an interesting dilemma. After all if Microsoft came clean and said "Windows Metro is this new operating system we have just thought up" would you write for it? If you believe that the Windows part of the name will result in everyone using it - just like Windows Vista gave way to Windows 7 - then you should develop apps for it. If you think that this isn't an inevitable upgrade - say like Vista didn't really replace XP - you shouldn't. What is really interesting is that the future outcome, i.e a Windows 7 hit or a Vista flop, probably depends on the proportion of developers who believe in it.
What isn't really clear at the moment, but will become so in the coming weeks, is how complete internally the WinRT Metro facilities are. Is this really a beta or an ambitious alpha - watch this space.
If you would like to see Windows 8 in action then see this hype-filled video. It does manage to illustrate how Metro apps behave.
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