The company released the preview Wednesday around 9:30 a.m. ET as Windows chief Steven Sinofsky was touting the new operating system's "no compromises" approach to integrating a touch-and-tablet user interface with the traditional Windows desktop.
"One day later...one million downloads of the consumer preview," said Microsoft in a tweet this morning from its Building Windows 8 Twitter account.
That download tempo was considerably faster than that of last September's Developer Preview, which Microsoft also allowed anyone to grab. In early December 2011, Microsoft claimed that more than 3 million copies of that even-earlier look had been downloaded in the previous seven-and-a-half weeks.
If the Consumer Preview keeps up its first-day pace, it will smash the 3 million mark over the weekend.
But because Microsoft never disclosed how many copies of Windows 7's beta were downloaded, it's impossible to compare the early returns of the Windows 8 preview with that January 2009 comparable.
In fact, Microsoft initially put a cap of 2.5 million on the release, then changed its mind: It first dumped the cap, then extended availability by two weeks.
Those moves suggest that fewer than 2.5 million copies had been downloaded during January 2009. At the time, Microsoft declined to say whether Windows 7's beta had fallen short or surpassed the 2.5 million-mark.
Microsoft has not set a ship date for Windows 8, but most analysts believe it will be ready in time for computer makers to prepare systems for sale during the 2012 holiday season.
Yesterday, Sinofsky said only that Windows 8's development cycle would emulate Windows 7's, with a near-final "Release Candidate" next in line, followed by a build that will be marked "Release to Manufacturing" to signal it's ready to pass along to computer manufacturers, or OEMs.
The 1 million downloads doesn't mean that that many users have actually installed the preview, as one user noted in a reply to Microsoft's Thursday tweet.
"To be fair, I downloaded it something like 4 times," said someone identified as Zack Williamson today, also on Twitter.
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