Microsoft is letting consumers try out its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, which it hopes will be used to power a new wave of computer tablets and traditional PCs.
The test "beta" version of the revamped system was introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the planet's largest cellphone trade show.
Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday offered it up free for download, along with free applications in a new "Windows Store."
Windows 8 doesn't have the traditional "Start" menu, and applications are spread across a mosaic of tiles in a design Microsoft calls "Metro."
The tiles, which resemble road signs, can be navigated with a finger swipe on the screen or with a keyboard and mouse.
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