Microsoft's webOS luvvin' partner HP is among the PC manufacturers getting copies of early Windows 8 code, according to reports.
HP and other Windows PC OEMs are reported to be getting builds of Microsoft's next desktop operating system known as milestone 3 – seriously pre-beta stuff.
They're sucking down the code through Microsoft's Connect external testing system.
Doing some back-of-envelope numbers based on earlier reports, Microsoft was due to start coding milestone 3 at the end of February, it seems this tranche of Windows 8 code is a month old.
What are PC makers getting, exactly?
According to leaked screen shots on different sites, something called History Vault, which is described to be analogous to Mac OS X's Time Machine for back up.
There's also a system-reset feature that'll let you reset your machine and retain your data once that inevitable day comes, often very soon, that your Windows PC starts slowing to a crawl.
We've yet to see what Windows 8 will look like. Rumor has it there will be two interfaces: a tile-based UI and an application programming model code-named Jupiter that'll download new Windows apps from Microsoft's Marketplace.
The Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, incidentally, was reported on Wednesday to have hit the 12,000 mark, with 3,000 apps having been added during March.
Meanwhile, there are growing whispers that Windows 8 will set the next version of Internet Explorer – version 10 – as its default browser.
If, as is being calculated, Windows 8 will hit beta in September with a view to shipping in 2012, that would mean the quickest IE development turnaround in Microsoft's history, and would make IE9 the shortest-lived version of Microsoft's shrinking browser.
Speculation is already mounting that a pre-beta, show-and-tell version of Windows 8 will be on display for the company's partners at Microsoft's World Wide Partner conference in July.
Other features expected in Windows 8, according to slides leaked last year, include support for a tablet form factor, instant-on, and facial recognition.
When Windows 8 does arrive, one person who won't be pulling the Windows PC marketing levers will be Microsoft's über comms chief, Mich Matthews.
Microsoft's global head of marketing is stepping down after 22 years with the company, during which time Microsoft launched Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 on the desktop.
Each launch now follows a familiar monolithic format: global venues, white papers from paid analyses like IDC to "prove" its net value to local economies, and a desperate hunt for a table of features that justify not only your upgrading to the latest version of Windows but also buying the most expensive SKU.
Matthews said that she has not got another job, but wants to do something new.
The change comes after Microsoft said it was putting out a tender $1bn of its ad spend in the US. The incumbent on this portion of the business was the Interpublic Group of Universal McCann. ®
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