Microsoft promised to deliver Windows 8 Release Preview during the first week in June. It's early: The bits are ready to download now. Here are the direct links to the Microsoft download sites for the three consumer versions (Core, Pro, and Pro with Windows Media Center), all of which are in the same .iso file:
Microsoft's Windows 8 download page has other language versions available.
What's changed between the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and the Win 8 Release Preview? Quite a bit, actually.
The usual user interface changes won't get too many people excited: The Aero UI has been modified a bit, with a larger palette for the Metro Start screen background and some new cursors and wallpaper. But of course we all know the big news, that Microsoft's going to change the window chrome again -- and axe Aero Glass -- for the final shipping version. There's no hint yet as to what other changes may come as a result of that decision; for example, we don't know if the legacy Control Panel's Window Color and Appearance applet will disappear.
Apparently, Flash will make it into the Release Preview's Metro version of Internet Explorer.
But the biggest change in the release preview has to be the built-in Metro apps. Screenshots of Release Preview Metro apps that look very little like their older Consumer Preview counterparts have surfaced all over the Web, in multiple languages.
One has to wonder: If Microsoft's changing the window chrome in RTM, will it change the Metro apps' chrome as well? We probably won't know until the final release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version hits -- which most bets say will be in mid to late August. We also don't know if Microsoft will release the RTM version to the unwashed masses as a download much before its appearance in new Windows 8 computers.
In previous versions of Windows, going back at least as far as Windows 3.0, release candidates have preceded the final product. But the Release Preview really isn't a release candidate -- there are big changes coming for Windows 8, even if they're "only" cosmetic (I say that with tongue firmly in cheek). The internal workings of Windows shouldn't change between now and RTM, though. The major features are all locked in. Or out, depending on how you look at it.
This story, "Windows 8 Release Preview: Now ready for you," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.