Microsoft is planning to distribute a private updated copy of Windows 8 to developers by February 3.
Microsoft revealed the details as part of its Windows 8 First Apps Contest. The competition allows developers to create a Windows 8 Metro style app between December 6 and January 8. If contestants are successful then they progress to round two of the competition. The second round of the competition runs from January 16 through to February 3. Microsoft states that round 2 contestants will “join a new Beta Program to download an updated, confidential build of Windows 8 from connect.microsoft.com, per instructions that Microsoft will send to all finalists.”
Developers who enter the contest will need to test their application against the updated Windows 8 build. during January 16 to February 3. WinRumors previously revealed that the Windows 8 beta sign-off is on track for January with a big demo planned for CES. Microsoft confirmed on Tuesday that the beta would not be available until late February. It’s clear that Microsoft is planning to distribute some type of interim build or early beta copy of Windows 8 to developers in mid to late January, based on their competition rules. This aligns well with the information we previously received.
Microsoft is also planning to provide a preview copy of its next-generation Office 15 suite in late January too. Current self hosting builds of Windows 8 internally at Microsoft are labelled as beta and Microsoft will begin an escrow phase towards its beta build sign off later this year. Little is known about the feature set of Microsoft’s Windows 8 beta. Recently leaked screenshots indicate that Microsoft will allow users to change the Start Screen color and the Start Screen background image in beta copies of Windows 8. Microsoft has previously detailed some other minor improvements to the Windows 8 beta. Users will be able to create, name and rearrange Start Screen groups as well as navigate with the Windows 8 Apps screen in a better way. Microsoft is planning to group applications to make it easier for users to identify them in Windows 8 beta. Windows Media Center will also return to Windows 8 beta alongside the typical Windows games, DVD creator and .NET 3.5. All were missing from the developer preview, made available in September.