Windows admins might have to wait a few more months for the Windows 8 beta.
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Microsoft plans to ship the first official beta of its much-anticipated Windows 8 operating system by the end of February, according to The Next Web (TNW), citing sources close to the company. If Microsoft does deliver the Windows 8 beta before the end of February, TNW projected that the finished version could be released to manufacturing by the end of June, with general availability (GA) sometime in the third quarter.
But Windows 8 introduces a number of new technologies, which will likely require a couple of rounds of beta testing, so a June delivery date might be too ambitious. A late beta test cycle, burdened by an overly ambitious feature set, pushed Windows Vista's GA out past the holiday season, thus dooming its acceptance among business customers. A delivery that's a few weeks late could similarly threaten Windows 8's success.
In contrast, Windows 7 went into beta in early January 2009, came out of beta that July and shipped in late October, becoming the most popular release of Windows ever and saving the Windows franchise.
An early delivery of Windows 8 could be critical for the operating system's success, given the growing pressure Microsoft faces in the desktop and tablet markets from Apple and most recently Amazon.com. If the release cycle hits any significant delays, Windows 8 could miss next year's holiday sales cycle.
"By Q3 2011 ... Windows was no longer No. 1 in choice preference, and interest among consumers dropped to 25%," Forrester Vice President J.P. Gownder wrote. "Microsoft has missed the peak of consumer desire for a product they haven't yet released."
The TNW report didn't confirm a list of features that would be in the first Windows 8 beta. Email capabilities, which are not in the Windows 8 developer preview, are at the top of that wish list.
Microsoft has been aiming to release Windows 8 and Windows Server 8 in close proximity to each other, both for marketing effect and because of tighter technical ties between the two OSes. The company has given no indication when it might deliver the first lock-down beta of Windows Server 8, which officials have said they expect to ship by the end of 2012. Microsoft released a developer's version of Windows Server 8 in mid-September.