Photo: Associated Press
Microsoft has shipped the first test version of Windows 8 to PC makers, according to posts on online forums, which means it’s on track for a late 2012 release.Windows 8 is a big deal for Microsoft because it will have special features for tablets — it will be the first version of the full Windows desktop OS to run on the low-powered ARM processors used in most tablets, and will have a design that works better on touch screens.
The company has struggled to come up with an answer to Apple’s iPad, which is replacing sales of consumer notebooks running Windows — particularly netbooks — and is gradually making inroads into businesses as well.
The test version of Windows 8 is reportedly being offered through Microsoft Connect, a program for privileged beta testers. Unusually, each invitation to the beta comes with a one-time use code, which should help Microsoft prevent leaks.
Microsoft will probably show the first beta of the operating system at its Professional Developers’ Conference (PDC), which will take place in Seattle later this year — the company hasn’t announced a date, but its Indian subsidiary is giving away an all expenses paid trip to the show.
Based on past releases, that means Windows 8 will start showing up on new PCs — including tablets — in late 2012 or early 2013.
Those tablets will enter a crowded market: Apple will probably be on its third iPad by then, Android tablets will be common, and RIM’s PlayBook and HP’s TouchPad will have been on the market for more than a year.