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Windows 8 Consumer Preview Starts February 29

Microsoft will hold a Windows 8 Consumer Preview event on Feb. 29 in Barcelona, Spain.

The event, to be held at the Hotel Miramar in Barcelona, was announced via e-mailed invitations today, but there does not appear to be a Web site with information about it. The event will last from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is being held within the same time period as the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, although the two events are separate.

In September, at Microsoft's Build event in Anaheim, Calif., the company released the "developer preview" of Windows 8. The release was called by some as a "pre-beta" and presenters at Build sometimes had problems with the demos being presented. This new appellation, "consumer preview," is being interpreted as Microsoft's beta release. Microsoft hasn't publicized the Windows 8 release schedule, but veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley said in a blog that Microsoft promised a release candidate and release-to-manufacturing version following the consumer preview.

The release candidate, in Microsoft's nomenclature, is the stage where the features are baked into the software but bug fixes from the beta are still being fixed. The release-to-manufacturing solution is a completed product sent to device makers for OS imaging and installation on new hardware.

Why Microsoft dropped the "beta" label with Windows 8 is up to speculation, with some observers noting that other software developers, such as Google, have tended to ignore the distinction between a beta and a final product. The growing emphasis on delivering software as a service further blurs the line, as those software updates can be delivered more rapidly than traditional "boxed" software releases. In any case, a beta likely still should be considered, at least from Microsoft's standpoint, as test software that's not ready for a production environment.

The consumer preview launch in Barcelona confirms an earlier announcement by Microsoft that it planned to release the Windows 8 beta in "late February." Presumably, the beta and online content will be available globally on Feb. 29, but Microsoft provided no details to that effect.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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