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8 Days a Week: A 2012 CES Recap

As expected, last week's 2012 Consumer Electronics Show included a ton of Windows 8 news as well as something I should have expected from the less-than-savvy blogosphere: A ton of non-news. On the latter note, we saw such silliness as one major news site offering up "pre-beta Windows 8 screenshots" that were really just photographs taken of a projected Windows 8 screen and, my personal favorite, an "exclusive hands-on" with a "pre-beta" version of Windows 8 that occurred on the CES show floor, in Microsoft's booth. You know, an event that was open to over 140,000 people. Some exclusive. :)

But separating the wheat from the chaff, we see that some new information really did emerge this week during the show, or at least concurrently with the show. So rather than call out the less scrupulous headline grabbers, let's focus on what really happened.

It's not the Beta, it's the Consumer Preview
During a Windows 8 session at CES, Microsoft director of public relations Janelle Poole provided two very interesting bits of information, the first of which was amazingly ignored by the tech press and blogosphere. (The second can be found below and was widely reported.) It goes like this:

"We haven't talked about the release date and we generally don't," she said. "We are talking milestone to milestone, so for us right now we're talking about the next milestone being the Consumer Preview happening in late February."

I'm curious no one latched onto that comment. I don't believe I've heard Microsoft refer to its one and only Windows 8 beta release as the Consumer Preview. I suppose that differentiates it from the Developer Preview from December, but it also suggests a new naming convention for Microsoft's pre-release versions. I wonder if they'll rename the RC (release candidate) to Business Preview too.

Just a guess.

October release date?
In the same talk, Poole also hinted at an October 2012 release date for Windows 8, an off-the-cuff remark that was, of course, taken as scripture by the blogosphere. Here's what she said:

"One of the things that I think is a good guideline though is we've always said that Windows releases come around about every three years. And this year will be three years in October since we launched Windows 7. So I think that's a good guideline to consider."

I agree it's a good timeline. But it's a good timeline because it sits squarely between the two possible extremes of Windows 8 General Availability, or GA as Microsoft calls it: August 2012 and January 2013. I would caution anyone from assuming that this is in fact Microsoft's "plan." It's just a rough date, and it's no different from what Microsoft has said in the past: It generally releases a new version of Windows every three years.

About those "pre-beta" builds
The blogger kiddies running around CES were very excited to report on any minor differences between what Microsoft showed off at the show and what we've seen previously in the publicly-available Developer Preview. And Mary Jo Foley and I, of course, hunted for any clues in the company's final CES keynote. There's not much to go on. Yes, there were Metro tiles for apps that aren't available in the Developer Preview, but then most of those tiles were actually present in Microsoft's BUILD Conference demos, which corresponded to the Dev Preview release. So the basic news is ... nothing to see here.

Microsoft did not provide private, hands-on Windows 8 demos to the press at CES that expanded on anything that was publicly available in the Microsoft booth (open to all 140,000 attendees) or to the handful of Windows 8 sessions it put on (also open to all 140,000) attendees. So what we have to go on here is just what Microsoft chose to show off publicly. Which is to say, almost nothing new at all.

Windows 8 hardware
I wasn't expecting Microsoft to really provide any new information about Windows 8 before the Beta (excuse me, Consumer Preview) release at CES, but one thing that did surprise me is the utter lack of information about new, Windows 8-based hardware. Only a handful of devices were shown and only one seemed anywhere close to being real.

If you really paid attention at the keynote, you would have heard Microsoft talk about Windows 7 momentum (500 licenses sold, blah blah blah), then Windows 8, with the same-old, nothing-new spiel, and then ... Windows 7 hardware? It was a weird transition, and while I get that Windows 7-based Ultrabooks are huge--heck, I've called Ultrabooks the biggest product of 2012--I don't get why some Windows 8-based hardware wasn't promoted at all.

In its booth, Microsoft talked up a slightly updated version of the Samsung Series 7 tablet that it provided to BUILD attendees, a second unnamed tablet, and a laptop. Lenovo announced a new take on the convertible laptop, which it describes as "the industry's first multi-mode notebook." It's called the IdeaPad Yoga Flip, and it looks very interesting. It's also misunderstood: This device it not meant as competition to thin, light, iPad-like slate tablets but is instead a full-featured laptop that can also be used as a tablet when you want something like that. It's a good example of the versatility of the PC market.

Windows 8 hardware requirements: It's NOT about locking out Linux at all
Today, my Windows 8 Secrets co-author, Rafael Rivera, posted an incredibly important look at Microsoft's publicly-released (but almost completely ignored) hardware requirements for Windows 8 logo certification in Windows 8 Secrets: PC and Device Requirements. These requirements are interesting for a number of reasons: They explain, step by step, what the differences are for ARM and Intel/x86-based Windows 8 PCs and devices and, of course, the differences between what's required in Windows 8 compared to previous Windows versions.

While some have tried to make a story out of Microsoft's so-called "locking out" of Linux on ARM-based devices, Rafael has discovered some truly revelatory information, and his post hits on Windows 8 digitizer requirements (5 points and up), NFC touch marks (required on-device), hardware buttons (5 must be there), the minimum component set for logo-ed Windows 8 tablets and convertible PCs, no-reboot drivers, and 2-second resume. Read the post.

Amazingly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I was speaking with Rafael about this documentation at length last night and he's got a lot more to write about. Stay tuned.

AWindows 8 Secrets update
As the months fly by, I'll be writing more and more about the actual act of writing the next book, Windows 8 Secrets. But I wanted to provide a short update: Last week on the Windows Weekly podcast, I discussed my evolving technology usage changes, including a rather startling change from Microsoft Word to Evernote for day-to-day writing. I further elaborated on this change in What I Use: Evernote And Microsoft Word For Writing.

I mention this here because I had temporarily decided to do most of the core writing of Windows 8 Secrets in Evernote and then transfer the text into Word for final processing before handing it off to the publisher. But I will not be doing this. This book is a collaborative process and Rafael and I will need the related features in Microsoft Word to write the book effectively. So we'll continue using Microsoft Word for the entire writing process, though I'll continue to store notes related to the book in Evernote.

Our plan with Windows 8 Secrets is simple: This will be the authoritative electronic and printed guide to the new features and functionality in Windows 8, the single best book on this topic, and will be released day and date with the OS, regardless of how Microsoft's schedule changes. We did it with Windows 7, and we'll do it again. But in the meantime, Rafael and I also intend on providing the very best Windows 8 coverage for free on the web through our respective web sites, with me of course covering the high-level, end-user features and Rafael examining the low-level, technical, and developer-related functionality. Our individual expertises are completely complementary, which is one of the many reasons we're working together. And in the end, this will benefit anyone interested in learning more about Windows 8. You don't need to wait for the book, and you don't need to pay if you don't want to. This isn't a new form of publishing. It's just the right way to do it.

See you next week.

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