We’ve got a heavy duty edition of The Midweek Download for you today, with stories on the Windows 8 consumer preview, TechForum 2012, a Microsoft distinguished scientist being recognized by the Anita Borg Institute and more. Don’t miss any of them!

Welcome to Windows 8 – the consumer preview. Today is a big day for the Windows team. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, we unveiled the Windows 8 Consumer Preview to our partners and press. Based on a broad range of feedback, we have made over 100,000 code changes and the Consumer Preview represents a refined product ready for broad and daily usage by those of you willing to test a pre-release OS. You can download the Consumer Preview starting now at http://preview.windows.com. If you tried the Windows 8 Developer Preview, then you are going to be delighted to see a broad range of product changes and improvements based on feedback from many sources. For the rest of this story, read today’s post on Building Windows 8 from Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division. Check out the screenshot of the Windows 8 start screen below:

TechForum 2012. Earlier this week, Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie hosted his fifth TechForum. As Next at Microsoft Editor Steve Clayton reports, “Every year, Craig invites a small group of leading tech journalists and bloggers to share an in-depth look at the company’s strategic and technical vision for the future. It’s also an opportunity to showcase some of Microsoft’s latest ideas and prototypes.” For an overview of TechForum, read this Monday post on Next at Microsoft, as well as profiles on a number of research projects at Microsoft, including Lifebrowser, the Microsoft Translator Hub, Chronozoom, a see-through 3D desktop, Holoflector, Illumishare and more. Also, don’t miss this feature story and slide show of TechForum demos on the Microsoft News Center.

Distinguished Microsoft scientist recognized. The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology announced recently that Jennifer Chayes, Microsoft distinguished scientist and managing director of Microsoft Research New England, has been selected to receive the Women of Vision Leadership Award. The annual Women of Vision Leadership Award recognizes a leading technical woman who has led an important technology development or innovation, made a significant contribution to the technology industry, and inspires others. Read this Tuesday post on Inside Microsoft Research for the rest of the story.

Jennifer Chayes, Microsoft distinguished scientist, will receive the Women of Vision Leadership Award from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

Windows Phone developers: Get ready for 60 percent more potential customers. Microsoft recently enabled Windows Phone Marketplace in Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru and the Philippines. Now, we’re announcing that in the coming month we plan to extend Marketplace to customers in 23 more markets, including; Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam. That’s 28 new consumer markets this year alone, for a total of 63 markets worldwide where your Windows Phone apps may be sold. In terms of actual potential app customers, the addition of new price points and customers in China and the other new markets represents a near 60 percent increase in the total addressable market for Windows Phone. Read this Monday post on The Windows Phone Developer Blog from Joe Belfiore, vice president of Windows Phone product management for the rest of the story.

Developers: Visual Studio 11 Beta and .NET Framework 4.5 Beta now available. Designing software, creating code and then bringing a product to market is an incredibly complex affair — and it’s becoming more complex by the minute as software users demand greater integration between applications, across devices and among services. To help integrate cross-functional teams and help developers accomplish goals more efficiently, Microsoft has released code-named “Visual Studio 11” Beta and .NET Framework 4.5 Beta. Read this feature story on the Microsoft News Center to get all the details.

Behind the scenes: Building an Office Blog app for Windows Phone in mere hours. In this Feb. 22 post on the Office Blog, Craig Kerwien in the Office Division, gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to build an Office Blog app for Windows Phone. “I was looking for a quicker way to monitor and stay up to date on the latest news from the Office Blog,” Kerwien writes. “In the span of a few hours on a Saturday, I had a working app.”

Screen Actors Guild Awards move from Drupal to Windows Azure. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has selected Windows Azure to provide the cloud technology necessary to handle high volumes of traffic to its website during its biggest annual event, the SAG Awards. SAG worked with Microsoft to port its entire awards site from Linux servers to Windows Azure, to gain greater storage capacity and the ability to handle increased traffic on the site. Want more detail? Read this press release on the Microsoft News Center and this Feb. 24 post on the Interoperability @ Microsoft Blog.

That’s it for this edition of The Midweek Download! Thanks for reading!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog