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Will Ballmer Kick Off Windows 8 Consumer Beta at CES?

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Shades of 2009.

The promoters of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) had no sooner announced this week that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will once again present the conference’s pre-keynote to kick off the show in early January when one leading tech rumor site trumpeted a big scoop. The site claimed it has been told by company insiders that Ballmer will likely use the opportunity to show off a passel of ARM and Intel-based Windows 8 tablets and possibly to begin the public beta test of Windows 8.

If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) used the same venue back in 2009 to begin the general beta test for Windows 7, which has gone on to become the most popular version of Windows ever.

“[A]ccording to company insiders … Microsoft is expected to deliver a beta copy of the next-generation operating system at its Build developer conference in September this year … [and] should be ready to deliver a second test copy of Windows 8 to the public at CES 2012,” tech news blog site winrumors said in a post Wednesday.

In fact, Microsoft appears to be taking the same path to Windows 8’s launch as it did for Windows 7, which at last count had sold more than 350 million licenses. The company is primed to update that number later this month when it announces its numbers for its 2011 fiscal year end.

Indeed, another senior Windows executive reportedly hinted during a Microsoft event in mid-June that Windows 8 will be in the market in time for holiday 2012 sales.

“We’ve made the point about having a developer conference later this year, and then typically we enter a beta phase, and then in 12 months we’re in the market, so let’s make that assumption,” Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president for strategic and emerging business development, reportedly said at the time.

With Windows 7, Microsoft released a technical beta for hardware and software developers at a pair of developer conferences in late summer/early fall 2008, and then Ballmer followed up with the release of the public beta during his keynote at CES 2009.

Windows 7 was released to the public in late October 2009.

Ballmer’s pre-keynote is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, January 9, 2012 at CES 2012 in Las Vegas.

A Microsoft spokesperson could not be reached in time for publication.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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