Microsoft starts shipping Windows 8 to OEMs

Software king of the old-fangled desktop, Microsoft has started shipping a build of its Windows 8 operating system to OEMs for them get their heads round it.

According to a report on the Win Rumors web site, the company released Windows 8 build version 7971.0.110324-1900 to OEM partners through its Microsoft Connect external testing programme.

The release coincides with the release of a version of Windows Home Server from Microsoft's engineering team, which is dubbed: "An exciting milestone which now starts the process to make it available for purchase."

Microsoft says many OEMs and System Builders have started building specific form factors based on WHS 2011, which it expects to see in the market starting May.

The time-frame for Windows 8 is naturally a lot longer. The Windows 8 and Server vNext Pre-Release Program on Microsoft’s Connect site will run for a while yet. The company has a lot riding on it.

After the fiasco of Vista, Windows 7 has done much to restore Microsoft's battered reputation, but not before Google started preening itself as a maker of operating systems and the world went mobile.

Windows 8 will mark Microsoft's re-entry into the tablet PC market, following the slow death of XP for tablets. Now it has to compete with Google and [cough!] Apple in a space it might have owned had complacency and a greed which translated into high consumer prices not knocked it off its perch.

A first beta of Windows 8 is anticipated as early as September this year.