MWC 2012: Microsoft Windows 8 Beta To Be Launched At The Show?

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 “Windows 8 Consumer Preview” event at 3:00pm on 29 February at the Hotel Miramar.

Preview of a Preview

A release of the Consumer Preview is indeed in the making, in line with Microsoft’s previous predictions that the Windows 8 beta (“Consumer Preview” is a fancy synonym) would arrive sometime in February. It is 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, colourful tiles linked to applications. That interface conforms to the same “Metro” 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-emphasising 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, 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 “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 emphasise Windows 8’s enhancements and tweaks to long time 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 will surpass those rival devices by offering heavy-duty functionality. “People don’t 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.

Nicholas Kolakowski eWEEK USA 2013. Ziff Davis Enterprise Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Nicholas Kolakowski eWEEK USA 2013. Ziff Davis Enterprise Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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