Windows 8: the wait is almost over

win 8

Pathological hatred of the Start button got you down? Wish those pesky windows on your desktop would just manage themselves a bit more like an iPad ? Quite fancy the look of an ARM-powered tablet but can't face the fact it will giving up Windows? Fear not, for Windows 8 is almost upon us and by the end of the month, you should know whether it exceeds or disappoints your expectations.

Microsoft previously committed to getting the public beta for Windows 8 online by the end of February. Yesterday, people started receiving invites for the 'Consumer Preview' of Windows 8 on February 29th. Most commentators seem to think that 8+29 equals a very obvious 4, and that this means the beta will be going live on that date. Seems like a reasonable deduction to us.

Which means that those of you not taking advantage of all the rare opportunities afforded by the quadrennial date (such as a birthday or when girls traditionally propose to boys) will instead be able to head over to and download what is – in all but name – the beta version of the next Windows.

The timing isn't just about hitting the unusual date. It's also – significantly – during Mobile World Congreess , the annual trade show in Barcelona which has been increasingly growing in importance over the last few years. As such, it's a fairly big statement of intent from Microsoft. It's snubbing events associated with traditional computing, like CES and CeBit , in favour of the tablet and phone show in Spain.

Does that mean the desktop is dead? Of course not. Although most of the focus will be on the new Metro interface, a Windows 7-like desktop still exists and – according to recent rumours – will be available as an option right down to tablet versions of the OS customised for ARM chips. Microsoft isn't letting go of the windows metaphor just yet – which is a good job, all things considered.

Besides Metro and ARM support, there are a lot of other new features that make Windows 8 worth trying out. A built in 'app store', better power efficiency and a new file system – along with new encryption and log in tools – have all been previously announced.