Microsoft's Windows 8 Consumer Preview Event Feb. 29

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2012-02-08 Print this article Print

Microsoft will host a Windows 8 Consumer Preview event in Barcelona Feb. 29. That's likely the launch date of Windows 8 beta.

Microsoft will almost certainly use this year€™s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as the venue for whipping back the curtain from its Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The company has sent eWEEK and other media an invitation to a €œWindows 8 Consumer Preview€-themed event at 3 pm Feb. 29 at the Hotel Miramar.

If a release of the Consumer Preview is indeed in the making, that€™s in line with Microsoft€™s previous predictions that the Windows 8 beta (€œConsumer Preview€ is a fancy synonym) would arrive sometime in February. It€™s widely expected that the release version of the next-generation operating system will hit the market late in 2012.

In a bid to expand Windows€™ reach to tablets and more mobile form factors, Microsoft€™s engineers have subjected the operating system to some fairly radical alterations. Chief among them: a start-screen based around large, colorful tiles linked to applications. That interface conforms to the same €œMetro€ design aesthetic underlying many of Microsoft€™s properties, including Windows Phone and the latest Xbox dashboard. In theory, those big tiles€”along with other features such as a mobile-applications storefront€”will facilitate Windows 8€™s operation on tablets.

By hosting the event at the Mobile World Congress, Microsoft is again re-emphasizing its aim to make Windows 8 a major player in the mobile arena.

Those who want a more €œtraditional€ Windows experience can flip from that start-screen to a desktop interface with a single tap or click. For power users, Microsoft€™s teams are busy tweaking Windows 8€™s file systems for more streamlined and powerful operation. While many of those adjustments are in response to feedback€”at least according to Microsoft€™s official Building Windows 8 blog€”some of its revisions have proven a bit controversial: the company€™s decision to include a €œribbon€ user interface for Windows Explorer, for example, attracted ire from those who dislike that particular feature.

Provided it releases in late 2012, Windows 8 will arrive exactly three years after Windows 7 hit the market. That could make it a hard sell to customers and businesses that recently upgraded. Over the past few months, Microsoft executives have taken pains to emphasize Windows 8€™s enhancements and tweaks to longtime Windows features.

In the tablet arena, Microsoft will face competition of an altogether different sort: Apple€™s iPad, currently the dominant device in that segment. The burgeoning number of Google Android tablets also present significant competition.

During his keynote address at this year€™s Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested that Windows 8 on tablets would surpass those rival devices by offering heavy-duty functionality. €œPeople don€™t want to compromise on what they have today,€ he told the audience. €œThey want the best of what they have, and the best of what they want.€

The Consumer Preview will give consumers their first chance to see whether Windows 8 indeed achieves that lofty goal.  

Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter  

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel