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Microsoft’s long-awaited Windows 8 release for public testing will be unveiled at a press event in Barcelona on February 29, tying in with the Mobile World Congress occurring at the same time, the company announced today.

Originally referred to as the Windows 8 beta, the release will instead be called the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which gives us a pretty good idea as to Microsoft’s target audience (hint: not the techies running earlier builds of Windows 8). Microsoft didn’t specifically say the Consumer Preview will be available to the public on February 29, but from what I’m hearing that will likely be the case.

Why did Microsoft end up calling this a release a Consumer Preview, instead of just a beta? As ZDNet’s Ed Bott explains, it likely has to do with the confusing connotations surrounding the word “beta.” It used to refer to a software testing stage when companies wanted feedback from users, but thanks to Google’s wanton use of the beta tag on services like Gmail, just about anything can be called a beta release now.

As for what to expect from the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, we’ve already seen some of the games Microsoft is planning to include, and we know that the Start button is getting axed. According to the Verge, the release will also include several applications built for Windows 8’s Metro interface, including a Messaging App (tied into Windows Live Mesenger), SkyDrive, and Mail.

VentureBeat will be on-site at the Barcelona event, as well as for the rest of Mobile World Congress, so stay tuned for more.

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