There has been some speculation over the last few months over when to expect the beta release of Windows 8. During Microsoft's final CES keynote tonight, Microsoft put that speculation to rest (more or less), announcing that the Windows 8 beta will be released to the public in late February. Also being released alongside the Windows 8 beta will be the Windows Store, Microsoft’s central repository for Metro applications. The Windows Store will be available globally, and will support every language that Windows itself supports. There was no discussion of a release candidate, but at this point it’s highly likely that we’ll see a single release candidate, similar to how Windows 7 was launched.

It’s worth noting that compared to Windows 7, Windows 8 development is slightly farther behind on a calendar basis. The Windows 7 beta was released to the public on January 10th, while the Windows 8 beta will be a month and a half behind that. There was a 9.5 month gap between the Windows 7 beta and retail availability, so if Microsoft maintains a similar development schedule then we would expect to see Windows 8 in retail at the very end of 2012.

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  • noxipoo - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    hopefully there will be an improved old UI for business. metro is complete waste of time when you need to real work, last thing i need is people checking facebook and twitter at work more.
  • B3an - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Theres already an improved desktop UI in the dev preview. Works the same as usual for the most part. And you access the new Start Screen (metro) to get to programs the same way as you would by clicking on the Start button on the desktop.

    Programs are now alphabetically displayed full screen using the metro UI - it's a lot easier to find stuff. No more hunting through folders in the "All Programs" start menu thats inside some tiny area that you constantly have to scroll. So no, metro isn't a waste of time even for work, it also makes stuff quicker. You dont even have top open a search box, just start typing and it will display results.
  • JPForums - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Under my start menu at work (WinXP) I count 32 applications that I use (3/4 of which I use on a regular basis). Most of these applications have multiple Icons for settings, documentation, and the likes.

    The above screenshot shows 17 Icons across the entire screen (if you include the ones that are half cut off). You could get 24 Icons if they were all square types. I find it far easier to get to what I want to use with the old start menu as I can see a much larger subsection of what I have in a logical (alphabetical) order. As shown in the above screenshot, the default ordering in metro, by default, scattered. To get to the rest of your programs, you have to swipe the whole screen. While this works very well for a tablet interface, it is quicker for a mouse to click or double click that to drag the entire display. Further, even though they don't get used often, settings, documentations, and the likes that get bundled in a folder in the old scheme don't have a logical binding in the metro scheme. You would have a harder time finding the associated settings and documentation, especially when you can't easily check whether or not they exist.

    Eventually developers could simply integrate this functionality directly into the UI of the program in questions. However, in some cases it doesn't make sense to do so as you need to exit the application and do things outside of the program with the information (think shells, environmental variables, settings in applications that the current one is dependent one, etc.). Even when this isn't the case, it's just one more thing to clutter up the application UI, so what do they gain by changing.

    That said, the above statements aren't really an issue for the average home user. Even an office worker that does a limited number of tasks probably wouldn't really be inconvenienced by the metro scheme. However, the IT professional, Engineer, program manager, enthusiast, and office workers that use many programs may find the new interface less efficient. I'm still unclear of any set of users (outside of tablets) that would find the metro interface functionally superior to what is currently available.
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Ctrl+arrow key instantly moves the focus from one screen to the next left or right depending on the arrow key pressed.
  • dcollins - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    You can zoom out on the new start screen, persistently. This allows you to view many more applications at once than the current Start Menu, which only shows 20 by counting.
  • B3an - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - link

    What you see in the screen shot is just one part of Metro. It's not the replacement for the cluttered "All Programs" list found in Vista / 7 that shows a very limited area space to scroll through.

    This is what i was talking about...

    It's accessed in a similar fashion too but it's also one less click away now.
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Improved? The users here come into work and sit there at their desks and hardly EVER touch the start menu... ever. They launch applications from the task bar and files from the desktop. That's it.

    All I have to do is move those files to their working drive and attach links to those files as tiles on the front of Windows 8. Done. They won't need anything else. Ever.

    As for Facebook... that's stopped at the firewall.
  • crispbp04 - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    You've just solidified his argument by confirming that users are confused as shit by the classic start menu. Metro fixes that. You will see "normal" users actually using it regularly.
  • lbeyak - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    I don't know if I agree with that. I am not at all confused with the start menu, but I VERY RARELY use it. Only if I have to search for a program that I use once in a blue moon, and even then, I usually prefer just opening up explorer and finding it in Program Files.
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    That's what I'm saying... standard users will love Metro

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