Microsoft on Wednesday let consumers start trying out its upcoming touch-based Windows 8 operating system, look which aims to power a new wave of computer tablets and traditional PCs designed to counter Apple’s big gains in the market through its Macs and iPads.

The test “beta” version of the revamped system was introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the planet’s largest cell phone trade show, and borrows some of the look of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 software for Windows 8.

Windows 8 doesn’t have the traditional “Start” menu, and applications are spread across a mosaic of tiles in a design Microsoft calls “Metro” — seen as an attempt by the company as a scramble to preserve its market share. And executives said it powers up on PCs in eight seconds, much faster than the previous version.

I really don’t know what to think of this new version of Windows before I try it out first hand. Once I try it out I will be giving a full review in the next couple of days.

To download the consumer preview for Windows 8, visit here.