As Martin wrote earlier, today marked the unveiling of the new Windows Store that will will be integrated into all Microsoft products including Windows 8, Windows Phone and the Xbox. One very interesting snippet of information that came from the Windows Store launch though was ‘confirmation’ of the availability date for the Windows 8 beta.
I say confirmation in inverted commas because it doesn’t answer all the questions and does indeed throw up some interesting ones too. Many people were expecting the beta to appear sometime in early to mid-January. This is what happened with Windows 7 just after it was officially unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2009. This is also consistent with a release schedule that could see the final code released to manufacturing by July for release on new PCs at the end of August.
PC makers complained strongly about the Windows 7 launch in October 2009 because it had missed the important back to college sales period. Indeed Microsoft had to issue vouchers to PC makers to give away with new PCs enabling people to get a free copy of Windows 7 later on.
However today we heard that the Windows 8 beta will be made available in “Late February 2012″. This is much less consistent with a final release that will meet the late August / September sales deadline and if any more consistent with a January release as was seen with Windows XP.
But it doesn’t answer all the questions. For instance there will be private and public beta programmes as usual. With Windows 7 these began only ten days apart but there’s no word yet on when the private beta will begin. It also doesn’t explain why we’re looking at a late February beta release when January was the date expected by many people. Microsoft received a great deal of backlash over the Developer Preview and had to re-engineer some features such as search and expand on others. In blog posts Steven Sinofsky, the Windows chief at Microsoft admitted that many people had not been happy with the Developer Preview and Microsoft had to do more work.
Does this late February release then mean that the required work has pushed Windows 8 back and maybe even wrecked the original release schedule? It is possible that the final release schedule will be announced at CES in January, though it is more likely we will have wait until some time in the spring before we get this information as we did with Windows 7.
If Microsoft miss a July RTM date then PC manufacturers, who are already feeling squeezed will no doubt be very angry and a voucher scheme will have to begin again in earnest. If we see a late August / September RTM then a pre-Christmas release will happen. If the schedule slips further into January 2013 then Microsoft will be in trouble, not just with PC makers worldwide, but also over their own finances.
When a new Windows release comes out the company want to say six months in how strongly it is selling, it helps with their share price. With a release as “bold”, “risky” and “contentious” as Windows 8 to use just some of the words people both inside and outside Microsoft have used to describe it this will be even more important. If the sale begin after the back to college and Christmas holidays sales periods are over then those figures will inevitably look weak. This could reflect very badly on Microsoft overall.
It will be CES in January at the very earliest before we get answers to any of these questions. The only thing that can be said with any certainty is that Windows 8 has and is continuing to cause Microsoft’s software engineers problems.
Windows 8 Beta Coming “Late February 2012″
Mike Halsey (MVP)
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 19:36:32 GMT