Microsoft promised we’d see the Windows 8 Consumer preview before the end of February, and they’re holding true to the word. The company has arranged a small event in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress to unveil the latest version of the upcoming OS on February 29, the very last day of the month. Microsoft has sent out invites to the press to attend a Consumer Preview of its next generation operating system, Windows 8.

As previously rumored the Consumer Preview will come packed with a small list of Metro-style apps and two games. The Windows Store, which will supposedly open its doors in a limited fashion once the public beta goes live, will provide eleven gaming titles and possibly other apps. The initial supply of apps will supposedly be free, with paid apps coming this fall. Also this week brought reports that Microsoft has removed start button for this release, thus allowing the Windows 7 “Superbar” to dominate the entire bottom portion of the screen. The news derives from build 8220 of the Consumer Preview which leaked over the weekend. After years of pressing the Start button since its introduction in Windows 95, it will be interesting to see how we’ll manage without it.

The Consumer Preview will include many features not seen in the previous Developer Preview release, which Microsoft gave out publicly in September last year.  This is because many of those features either had not been written yet or were not finished.  One of the things that are set to change considerably is the new Metro interface, and several leaks in the last couple of weeks have shown that in some ways Microsoft has changed it significantly.

It’s noted that the calendar, mail, messaging and people apps will be more encompassing and useful than solely Windows Live software. The messaging app, for instance, is claimed to have support for SMS. The music and video apps are currently labeled as Zune, but they were built by the Xbox team and they’ll soon be rebranded as such. Xbox Live will be the entertainment brand for Windows 8’s music, videos and games. While Microsoft’s announcement is lacking juicy details, the verge has learned more about the programs that might ship with Windows 8. According to unnamed sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans, the OS will offer Metro-style camera, messaging, mail, calendar, SkyDrive, photo, video, music and “people” applications — all of which will be present in the Consumer Preview, but aren’t set in stone for the full release.

The choice highlights the increasing intersection between Windows and the mobile world, as Microsoft aims to make inroads on tablets in its battle with the iPad. New features that have been demonstrated but not yet used by the public, including the new “Windows App Store” will open at the same time.  The final release of the operating system is expected later in the year around October. We’ll be covering all the details of the beta launch as it happens but let us know if you are looking forward to trying out Windows 8 on your PC, laptop or tablet.

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