The public beta of Windows 8, the latest iteration of Microsoft's operating system, could be made available on February 29.
A number of journalists have received invites to a "Windows 8 Consumer Preview" that will take place at a hotel in Barcelona, Spain on the afternoon of February 29. At the same time the city will also be playing host to the Mobile World Congress trade show.
Microsoft has yet to confirm whether the consumer preview is in fact the public beta and if it will be made available to all PC users at the same time as the press event. However, Microsoft has previously said the beta will be made available in February this year, although it declined to reveal exactly which date at the time. This means it looks likely the event will be the launch of the beta version. A developer preview of the operating system was made available in September last year.
Described as a "reimagining of Windows from the chipset to the experience" the new OS features a dual interface aimed at both PC and tablet/touchscreen users. The traditional Windows desktop is joined by the new Metro interface, which borrows heavily from the interface Microsoft created for Windows Phone 7 and features a series of tiles that offer access to applications and can also contain live data that can be updated. Pressing the Start menu allows users to switch between the two different interfaces.
For the first-time ever, Windows will also feature an integrated app store, which is expected to be made available in the beta version. The Windows Store will offer apps for both the traditional desktop OS and the Metro interface.
Microsoft hasn't revealed many details about the programs that will be available in the store, saying only a select number of developers have been invited to offer apps during the Windows 8 beta period. During a demo of the Windows Store, Microsoft showed Metro-style apps such as Evernote, eBay, Cut The Rope (a popular mobile game), and digital books from Disney. It's a good bet that at least some of these apps will be part of the Windows Store during the Windows 8 beta.