Microsoft will almost certainly use this years 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 Windows 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, thats in line with Microsofts previous predictions that the Windows 8 beta (Consumer Preview is a fancy synonym) would arrive sometime in February. Its 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, Microsofts 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 Metro design aesthetic underlying many of Microsofts properties, including Windows Phone and the latest Xbox dashboard. In theory, those big tilesalong with other features such as a mobile-applications storefrontwill facilitate Windows 8s 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 traditional Windows experience can flip from that start-screen to a desktop interface with a single tap or click. For power users, Microsofts teams are busy tweaking Windows 8s file systems for more streamlined and powerful operation. While many of those adjustments are in response to feedbackat least according to Microsofts official Building Windows 8 blogsome of its revisions have proven a bit controversial: the companys decision to include a ribbon 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 8s enhancements and tweaks to longtime Windows features.
In the tablet arena, Microsoft will face competition of an altogether different sort: Apples 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 years Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested that Windows 8 on tablets would surpass those rival devices by offering heavy-duty functionality. People dont want to compromise on what they have today, he told the audience. They 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.