Here comes Windows 8. On Feb. 29, Microsoft will offer a "consumer preview" of its next operating system, centered on an invitation-only event in Barcelona, Spain.
The two-hour special event, for which e-mail invitations have been sent out, will occur during the same week and in the same city as the Mobile World Congress.
Some observers have noted that a conference for mobile devices is an unusual venue to stage this major release of Microsoft's new platform for desktops, laptops and tablets, but the company has apparently decided to use this context as a way of emphasizing the mobile orientation of Windows 8.
In fact, mobile appears to be driving key elements of 8, such as its touch- and tablet -optimized Metro interface mode. Additionally, recent information has indicated that Windows 8 will share a number of the same components as Microsoft's next phone platform, Windows Phone 8, code-named Apollo.
The user interfaces for Windows 8 and Apollo are expected to be similar, as least in the Metro mode, and Phone 8 is expected to reuse the kernel, network stacks, security and multimedia coding of Windows 8. As a result, applications developed for Windows 8 could potentially run, with relatively little modification, on Apollo phones.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, CEO Steve Ballmer announced that a public beta of the "reimagined" Windows OS would be available sometime in February. The version released on the 29th will be the first widely available preliminary version.
'Consumer Preview,' not Beta
It is apparently being called a "consumer preview" rather than a beta because of an overuse of the term by various companies -- including Microsoft -- and to convey that this version is intended for consumers as an early incarnation, not as a test version.
Some information on Windows 8 has already been released, such as the demise of the Start button that has been present since Windows 95, and a Developers' Preview has been available since September.
Microsoft has a lot riding on Windows 8 for desktops and laptops, which will be offering a new interface, a rewritten core and potential compatibility issues for the company's existing, huge installed base.
The release date of a final Windows 8 has not yet been announced, but the wait has begun to affect Microsoft's bottom line. Estimated revenue for Windows software has missed analysts' targets for the past five quarters, because consumers and businesses are holding off for the new OS. Based on Windows 7's release cycle, speculation has centered on a release date for Windows 8 in the fall.
The preview OS will include a number of pre-installed applications. According to reports on the Web, these include Messaging, Camera, Mail, Calendar, SkyDrive, People, Photos, Video, and Music. Updates will be available via the Windows Store. Although these apps will be included in the consumer preview, it's not yet clear if they'll be included in Windows 8's final release.
Posted: 2012-02-08 @ 6:42pm PT
Do we know yet if it can be an upgrade from XP Pro?