For the first time Microsoft is letting consumers try out its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, a version it hopes will be used to power a new wave of computer tablets and traditional pcs.
It's the first beta version available for download to non-developers, and Microsoft is now offering it up online, free of charge, along with free applications in a new "Windows store."
The test version of the revamped system was introduced Wednesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the planet's largest cell phone trade show.
Windows 8 will be able to function on tablets and laptops, and
Microsoft called it "fast and fluid" and has praised the system for its ability to perform tasks, such as letting users interact with multiple apps simultaneously.
Microsoft hasn't set a timeline yet for the final release of the new operating system.