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Windows 8 Hits 'Consumer Preview' Feb. 29

A Windows 8 "consumer preview" event will take place on Feb. 29 in Barcelona, Spain.

The event was announced via e-mailed invitations on Wednesday from Microsoft, but it does not currently seem to have a Web site with information about it.

The event will take place at the Hotel Miramar in Barcelona 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 (RC) and release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version following the consumer preview.

The RC, 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 RTM 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 the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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