Over the past few decades, Microsoft Windows has been (and still is) the most used operating system. Of course, Apple has proven to be a worthy competitor over time, but for now Windows dominates the OS markets. Its upcoming release, Windows 8, has already been subjected to much speculation and even though it hasn’t been officially released yet, there is a consumer preview available for download. With the updated version, Windows has anticipated the developments in the mobile world by focusing on the usage of tablets and mobile phones.

What are the features?
Tablet-wise, Slashgear stated that the OS is now also based on ARM and Microsoft refers to it as “Windows 8 WOA.” ARM-based hardware is the same type that is used for the iPad and Android tablets, which indicates that Microsoft is well aware of its competitors.

Windows 8 is using the new Metro interface, similar to the Windows Phone 7. It may take some time for some users to get used to this interface as it uses tiles instead of traditional icons and menus. It’s very easy to use, because most interactions include swipes, drag-and-drops and taps to navigate the interface. Although these actions are simple in their operation, they aren’t always obvious to the user, which means it requires some time to learn.

An interesting addition is the “Windows to Go” feature that enables people to use “Live USB” to boot and is created to run on USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. This means you can use it on different Windows-capable computers, whether it’s your home PC or the office PC–very useful for those who work on different PCs.

With the new OS, Microsoft has confirmed the launch of a Windows Store and it’s probably exactly what you think it is: an app store. Users will be able to purchase various Windows 8 apps and developers are able to distribute their apps on the platform. According to Gizmodo, the Windows Store currently has less than 100 apps available, but a great benefit is that while you’re in the preview period, all the apps are free! On top of this, apps are always on in Windows 8, so you don’t have to worry about launching time. Aside from this, Windows 8 will come out with pre-installed apps like SkyDrive, Photos and Music. Microsoft is surely heading in the right direction with its apps.

You can expect the pricing for the Windows 8 tablet to be similar to that of the iPad and Android tablets, since Microsoft has to be able to compete with them. The official release date hasn’t been confirmed yet as it’s still in the process of development, but it’s rumored that it should be released before the end of this year. The final commercial version of Windows 8 is definitely something to look forward to.

What do you think? Is this Microsoft’s chance to beat Apple?