The Windows 8 Consumer Preview launch is slated for February 29, but much more important than the date is the location -- the annual Mobile World Congress, the year's big show about mobile technology. That makes clear that Windows 8 has everything to do with tablets and phones, and less to do with the desktop.
Choosing to launch the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at the Mobile World Congress shows just how much this version of Windows is aimed at tablets and smartphones. Why else announce it at the world's biggest mobile show?
That only confirms what was revealed in the Windows 8 Developer Preview. All the major changes to Windows were done via the new Metro interface that is modeled after Windows Phone 7, and clearly targeted at tablets. The traditional Windows desktop was essentially left on its own and seems an afterthought.
Windows 8 will be the future not just for tablets, but for smartphones as well. According to Paul Thurrot, Windows Phone 8 will be based not on Windows CE, as is Windows Phone 7, but instead on the Windows 8 kernel. This makes a great deal of sense, because it will allow Microsoft to better integrate all Windows-based devices, from ultrabooks to PCs, smartphones, and tablets.
Making the announcement at the mobile show may be symbolic, but it's important symbolism. The desktop version of Windows, once the king of the hill inside Microsoft, is slipping in terms of revenue and importance. The company's most recent earnings report shows that Windows is now only the third largest division in Microsoft in terms of revenue, behind the Business Division (Office, Exchange, and Sharepoint) and the Server & Tools Division (Windows Server, SQL Server, System Center). Soon the Entertainment & Devices Division may overtake it.
The real growth is in mobile, and Microsoft recognizes that. So by making the Windows 8 announcement at the mobile show, it's telling the world that's where its focus will be.