Home Your Tech Home Tech Windows 8: coming late 2012 - and 2011!

Windows 8: coming late 2012 - and 2011!

The news is out that a blog post on Microsoft's Dutch subsidiary says it will take another two years to get Windows 8 on the market, but that's for the boxed, retail version, as betas have to come out first, and we should see those from 2011!

Microsoft's cycle of new operating system releases is ticking along on schedule thus far, with the first bit of Windows 8 info to 'leak' since the earlier multi-page presentation on many of Windows 8's features (including an app-store and more) found its way onto the Internet to spill the beans on Windows 8's current direction.

Whether the previous document was legitimate or not, it certainly sounded like it, with the goals in question being ones you'd likely want to see in your chosen operating system, whether it was Windows, Linux, Mac OS or something else.

So, consumers, businesses and Microsoft's competitors got a sneak peek into what was at least purported to be from Microsoft, leading to the expectation the next version is well in hand and will deliver a fresh new tablet-optimised interface that can be used alternately with the existing computing paradigm of keyboard and mouse for backwards compatibility, something Microsoft has been successful, for the most part, at delivering on.

The news is all over the Internet, but ZDNet's article 'Is two years too long to wait for Windows 8' has a reprint of the original Dutch text, with a translation into English. 

But that's the thing - those who want to try Windows 8 as soon as possible definitely won't have to wait too long at all to do so, and certainly not two years.

After all, this new 'leak' about Windows 8 isn't really a leak at all. That's because the next version of Windows should come three years after the last one. If last week in 2010 is the first year of Windows 7 availability, the same week in 2012 will be its third - at just the right time.

This is because any release needs to be RTM'd (released to manufacturing) by mid-year so there's plenty of time for OEMs to tweak Windows 8 well before year's end for a variety of devices from PCs, slates, tablets, smartphones, automotive PCs, the Surface platform and any else that emerge between now and then.

But the basics will be to get PCs and devices on shelves for the back-to-school season and then for the all-important end-of-year/Christmas/holiday shopping season. You've got to have your new OS out well before that time - there's no point releasing an OS in January as happened with Vista!

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So, given that one year of Windows 7's official availability has passed, it's no surprise to see some next version speculation emerge. By this time next year, a beta of Windows 8 will likely be released, possibly having been preceded by a pre-beta as happened with Windows 7.

I've been using Windows 7 since the pre-beta timeframe, so for me and many others Windows 7 is already two years old, not one.

The next beta of Windows will be installed and likely used from that point on when it comes, as has been the case for several versions of Windows now (even with Vista), barring any major beta snafubars, which would be unexpected given the lesson Vista is supposed to have taught Microsoft.

Also, as always, Steve Ballmer says that the next version of Windows (which we all presume is going to be Windows 8), is Microsoft's 'riskiest bet'.

But then we've heard that before, Microsoft bets the company on every new version of Windows it releases. It's betting the company's prestige and capabilities in the smartphone market as we speak, with Windows Phone 7, and given Microsoft keeps on saying it's not going to release a Windows Phone 7 tablet, two years is definitely a long time to wait for a proper Windows tablet. Perhaps Steve Ballmer is learning a few tips on tablet misdirection from his crunchy competitor, Steve Jobs?

If Windows 8 development goes to the expected 3 year schedule, we should really start seeing a pre-beta from mid-2011, a beta by late 2011, and at least one release candidate in early 2012 and a likely RTM anytime between June and August 2012, which will see MSDN and TechNet availability, with retail boxes on store shelves in September or early October.

How radical and next-gen improvement Windows 8 will be over today's way of computing is truly yet to be seen, although we're already seeing changes on Apple's side of the fence with Mac OS 10.7 Lion and it's implementation of certain iOS elements, including the app store that has done so well on iPods, iPhones and iPads.

And the Linux world never stands still for a moment, either. Ubuntu 10.10 is here with plenty more on the way, and there are many other popular distros - if there's a UI shift we'll see it on Linux, too, although as you'd expect in a competitive market Linux has offered benefits for some time, from imperviousness to Windows malware, viruses and other threats to long having had an "app store" with plenty of free software to download in virtually any category.

The next three years will be fascinating to watch, especially as they herald the golden era of the smartphone and tablet computing, taking mobile computing and all the operating systems we know today to the next level, writing the next chapter in the evolution of the interaction between humans and technology that we will be living through. Exciting times!



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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.