Microsoft on Tuesday confirmed that it will release a public beta of Windows 8 in late February, 2012.

The company broke the news at a San Francisco developers event Tuesday, where Antoine Leblond, vice president of Windows Web services, touted Windows Store, the app market that will be the sole distribution channel for applications designed to run in Windows 8's new "Metro" interface.

Windows Store will open to the public at the same time Windows 8's beta ships, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

While Microsoft has yet to talk about an official launch date for Windows 8, the beta's timing hints at a fall 2012 debut, assuming the company paces Windows 8's final development and testing as it did Windows 7's.

Windows 7's first developer-oriented release was at the end of October 2008. Microsoft offered a public beta of the OS in January 2009, and the final version hit shelves the third week of October, 2009.

Although Windows 8's beta will appear a month later in the cycle -- February instead of January -- its Developer Preview launched a month earlier, in mid-September rather than Windows 7's October, perhaps making the two schedules a wash.

Full story: Computerworld