Microsoft has set 29 Feb as the target date for the release of the first public preview of its Windows 8 operating system.
The company has begun distributing invitations to an event taking place on 29 February at a Barcelona hotel during the Mobile World Congress show.
While not formally labelled by Microsoft as a "beta" release, the preview will be the first publicly distributed test versions of the operating system.
The release, should it indeed be made available to the public, would fall on the last day of Microsoft's previously-mooted February timetable.
This provides the latest indication from Microsoft that Windows 8 is on track for general availability in 2012. Previous reports have suggested that development issues might push the release to 2013.
When Windows 8 does arrive, it will mark a new direction in Microsoft's operating system strategy.
Windows 8 will be designed for conventional desktop systems as well as Tablet devices, and combine interface designs from both conventional and touchscreen applications.
Additionally, the Windows 8 system will make heavy use of web-based applications and services through the Microsoft's new Metro system.
Analysts have predicted that Windows 8's hybrid interface will be a hit with consumers and business users looking to transition to tablets.
A recent study from technical support firm iYogi found that 85 per cent of its customers favoured Microsoft's new interface designs and the company predicts that the release will help to push record tablet sales even further.
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