SAN FRANCISCO, FEBRUARY 14, 2012 (INQUIRER) Agence France-Presse - Microsoft on Wednesday revealed plans to unveil a test version of its latest Windows computer operating software later this month.

The US technology titan sent out invitations to a “Windows Consumer Preview” event to be held on February 29 at a hotel in Barcelona during a Mobile World Congress gathering in that city.

Microsoft promised to release more information closer to the end of the month.

The introduction of a test, or beta, version of Windows 8 to the public is expected to be accompanied by the opening of an “app store” stocked with mini-programs tailored for the next-generation operating system.

In December, Microsoft began wooing developers for a February opening of its first Windows Store intended to feature third-party applications crafted for computers powered by the Redmond, Washington-based firm’s software.

It will take on Apple and Google in the booming market of fun, hip or functional programs built for smartphones, tablets and computers.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview Date Confirmed

Microsoft is set to release a trial version of its touch-centric operating system to everyday computer users.

By Paul McDougall InformationWeek February 08, 2012 05:12 PM

The general public won't have to wait long to get its hands on Windows 8, as Microsoft has confirmed the date on which it will make a trial version of its newest operating system freely available to anyone who wants to download it and kick the tires.

Microsoft will hold an event in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 29 to formally launch Windows 8 Consumer Preview, according to an invitation the company sent to journalists Wednesday.

The date and location coincide with the World Mobile Congress, an indication that Microsoft is serious about pushing Windows 8 as a mobile operating system for tablets, as well as for traditional desktops and laptops.

Microsoft typically warns users that unfinished software can cause system problems and that users should try it only if they have reasonably advanced computer skills.

Microsoft in September released the Windows 8 Developer Preview along with tools that programmers could use to build apps and get familiar with Windows 8.

The new OS represents the most fundamental redesign of the OS since the debut of Windows 95.

For its interface, Windows 8 relies heavily on design elements taken from Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 environment, including Metro themes and Live Tiles. Tiles are blocks of screen real-estate that feed real-time updates from social networks, messaging, e-mail, and other services to the home screen.

Leaked screenshots appear to show that Microsoft has even eliminated the Start button, a familiar Windows navigation tool in past versions, and replaced it with a swipeable area users can touch to bring up various menus.

Such a design is more tablet friendly, and Microsoft has made little secret of the fact that it's counting on Windows 8 to make it a player in the tablet market, which is dominated by Apple and Google-powered devices.

Microsoft has not announced a release date for the final version of Windows 8, saying that it prefers to work from "milestone to milestone." Still, many analysts believe the OS could show up in some consumer products in time for the 2012 holiday season.

Social media are generating tons of data, but that data only becomes truly valuable when examined in context.

Attend the virtual Enterprise 2.0 event Social Analytics: The Bridge To Business Value, and learn how social analytics will provide the bridge to unlocking business value. It happens Feb. 16.

How To Do Cloud Apps With Microsoft

Microsoft's Office cloud apps and storage are one of the Web's best-kept secrets. Why settle for Google Docs?

What's In Microsoft's Cloud?

How does 25GB of free online storage, a free version of Microsoft Office (including OneNote), file access on mobile devices, and an automatic synced backup of up to 5GB on your PCs and Macs sound to you? Too good to be true? All of this is available right now if you have or are willing to create a Microsoft Live ID.

Before we go on, just a friendly reminder: Storing sensitive or confidential material in the cloud can be a risky proposition and might violate legal obligations. Check with your management before using any cloud storage service for information that belongs to an entity other than you.

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