By Mark Long / CIO Today. Updated April 24, 2012.
Microsoft will launch a Windows 8 release preview of its next generation operating system in early June. The announcement was made on Tuesday by Stephen Sinofsky -- the president of Microsoft's Windows division -- at the Windows Developer Days conference in Japan.
Microsoft's release schedule for Windows 7 began with the launch of the W7 developer's preview on October 28, 2008. Then in 2009, Microsoft rolled out the W7 public beta, release candidate (RC), and release to manufacturing (RTM) versions on Jan. 7, April 30 and Oct. 22, respectively.
This time around, Microsoft has changed the designations for its incremental W8 OS releases to developer (Sept. 13, 2011), consumer (Feb. 29, 2012) and preview (early June).
"Barring any major issues, an early June roll out of a release candidate caliber version of W8 is in fact earlier" than many industry observers had expected, said Al Hilwa, director of applications software development at IDC.
The W8 release preview will arrive in plenty of time for manufacturers to have W8 devices "out in the fall well ahead of the holiday buying season," Hilwa said. "Shipping early means an even bigger variety of devices by the holidays."
A New Mobile Platform
When we asked Hilwa what the impact would be of each subsequent W8 release on third-party app developers and service operators, he said he does expect independent software vendors to begin to take more notice of each new W8 release -- and with some ISVs already showing visible interest in W8 because they view it as a new mobile platform.
"Traditional PC ISVs will likely start to take notice with the June release," Hilwa said. "Business ISVs will likely be the last to come and will likely add modules for their apps around business-to-consumer functionality."
With its new cross-over capability to run on media tablets and other computing devices equipped with ARM-based processors, however, Windows 8 may present Microsoft with more challenges to have a final release-to-manufacturing version ready for an October rollout to tablet makers as well as PC manufacturers. The good news for Microsoft, however, is that the new OS will radically expand the sheer number of platforms on which W8 can run.
"All indications are that we will see tablets and convertible devices at various points of the weight and price spectrum with Windows 8 itself," Hilwa said. "The theory is that Windows RT devices will be lighter, cheaper and have better battery life, but I am guessing they are going to get a run for their money from Intel-based machines."
Adapting to a New PC Paradigm
So far, however, Hilwa is impressed with the extensive set of consumer friendly features and capabilities that Microsoft has packed into its consumer preview release of W8, which he has been using for the past couple of weeks.
"From a quality perspective the consumer preview version of Windows 8 is amazing," Hilwa said. "I have to pinch myself sometimes when I see the device sleep and wake-up in a couple of seconds."
Hilwa's principal concern from the consumer perspective is whether people will welcome all the new changes or be overwhelmed with having to change their past computing behavior to fit Microsoft's new paradigm. The response of consumers to all the changes may depend on how long they have been using Windows -- with younger PC users potentially finding it easier to adapt to the new computing environment.
"There are some things I am still trying to figure out in Windows 8 and I have been using a PC for 20 years," Hilwa said. "Maybe that is why."