In case you missed it, Microsoft has released the final version of Windows 8 to MSDN and TechNet subscribers on August 15. This comes about two months ahead of the general availability of Windows 8 on October 26, and is a long-time tradition where new versions of the Windows operating system (OS) are concerned. The selective release of Windows RTM gives software developers (MSDN) or IT professionals (TechNet) a crucial head start to test an upcoming Windows release against existing software applications and deployments.
Of course, smaller businesses that are not software developers or IT companies are unlikely to have paid the subscription fees for either MSDN or TechNet access. This means that they often have no way to test the RTM release of the Windows OS until its actual release date. This wasn’t much of a problem in the past though, given the pervasiveness of corporate-owned and managed laptops and desktop PCs.
With the trend towards BYOD (bring your own device), however, the situation is expected to be more challenging due to the speed at which Windows 8 laptops and hybrid tablets are expected to make their way onto the corporate network. As you can imagine, this could be problematic for SMBs that have yet to verify that in-house apps will work correctly on the final version of Windows 8 – arguably Microsoft’s most significant OS upgrade to date.
Well, you may be glad to know that Microsoft has quietly released a 90-day evaluation copy of Windows 8 Enterprise that is available for download at no cost. The only information needed during the mandatory registration process would be to login with Microsoft and provide a name, email address and country.
The evaluation version of Windows 8 RTM has been available for download since August 15, and requires a 1GHz or faster processor and 20GB of hard disk space. The 32-bit edition requires 1GB of RAM while the 64-bit edition requires 2GB of RAM. Supported languages at the moment are as follows: Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, English (UK), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil) and Spanish.
There are a couple of limitations though. For one, the OS must be activated online within 10 days after installation, and this must take place before August 15, 2013. Also, note that Microsoft has made it impossible to upgrade this evaluation version to a licensed working version of Windows 8, in a move likely designed to foil software pirates. As it is, Microsoft advised testers to install the evaluation version in a virtual machine instead.
Whatever the case, it may be a good idea for smaller businesses to start evaluating Windows 8 now. You can download the Windows 8 Enterprise Evaluation here.