Microsoft has preinstalled a number of Windows Communications apps in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Mail, Calendar, People, and Messaging are all present and provide access to the typical Windows Live features found in Windows 7. The metro style applications all have basic functionality, and work as a quick way to access Microsoft's online applications.

The mail application acts as a fully functional email client with access to Exchange, Google, and Hotmail accounts. Windows 8 Consumer Preview users can simply add an account in without any setup, and get access to the powerful functionality of Exchange accounts without the need for Outlook — a big move for Microsoft in what is essentially a core free Mail product. The Messaging application shows no signs of rumored SMS integration but it does provide a simple way to message Facebook and Windows Live Messenger contacts. Similar to Windows Phone, there is also a way to switch accounts in the interface to chat between the different services. Contacts are populated from the People app of Windows 8 for use in Messaging.

Microsoft's Photos application includes access to SkyDrive, Facebook, and Flickr photos. The application will automatically pull in these photos providing you have linked a Windows Live ID to your local Windows 8 account. The same applies to the rest of the preinstalled Windows 8 applications that use Microsoft's online services, they will all open preconfigured. Although the applications are fairly basic right now, we expect their functionality to be extended by the time Windows 8 is ready later this year.

Be sure to read our complete hands-on of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview here.