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Microsoft to host Windows 8 Consumer Preview on Feb. 29

The software giant takes another step toward releasing its next computer operating system, holding an event at Mobile World Congress to unveil the Windows 8 beta.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
Invitation to Microsoft's Windows 8 Consumer Preview event in Barcelona. Microsoft

Microsoft will take the wraps off the consumer preview of Windows 8 on February 29 in Barcelona, a key milestone on the path toward launching the new operating system.

The consumer preview is the name Microsoft has given the beta version of the operating system. The company said in December it would launch the beta by late February.

Microsoft sent out invitations this morning to press to attend the "Windows 8 Consumer Preview." And while the invitation doesn't say anything about the debut of the preview itself, it stands to reason that it will coincide with the event.

The company is hosting the event during Mobile World Congress, a huge trade show for mobile gadgets. There may be something to be read into it being at that location, given that Microsoft is pushing hard to turn Windows into a tablet operating system as well as one that runs PCs.

Windows 8 will feature a new interface, dubbed Metro, which is quickly moving to the core of all Microsoft's consumer offerings. The company is betting that the touch-optimized Metro will help it chip away at the massive head start Apple has in the market with its iPad.