Windows 8 beta will launch in February

Posted by Mark Raby

It appears as though progress on Microsoft's new operating system is coming along smoothly, as the company is ready to open it up for beta testing in just a couple months.

Microsoft announced at an event yesterday that people who want to get a first glance at the brand new interface will be able to by the end of February.

Windows 8 will arguably bring more changes to the operating system than any other iteration.

All the changes revolve around what Microsoft is calling the "Metro UI," which allows users to have complete customization on their home page, including widgets, RSS readers, weather information, date/time, etc.

Metro UI will also have deep multitasking chops, giving users the ability to easily toggle back and forth between different apps and websites. The prototype unit shown at BUILD looks similar to an iPad, with virtually no buttons on the device itself. Microsoft wants touch input to be the main control mechanism, but in a way that's new and different - not just tapping, but swiping and gesturing.

When the beta launches, so will the Windows Store - the recently announced digital storefront that will allow users to pay for software and download it right away. The idea is that users will no longer need to jump around to third-party download sites and can get all their content from one central platform.

The Windows Store will launch with only free content at first, but premium downloads will be available in the following months.

Windows 8's progress suggests that the final software will be available sometime in the fall.