Leaked Windows 8 details suggest beta this year

A leaked roadmap of Microsoft's Windows 8 Milestone 2 development suggests that the next release of Windows could be closer than anyone thought - with rumours hinting at a beta release as soon as Q4 this year.

Windows 8 is set to be a landmark release from the software giant and a major shake-up for a somewhat stagnant industry, as it will be the first full Windows release to support both the x86 and ARM architectures.

Traditionally, the desktop release of Windows has only been available on x86 processors - leading to the so-called 'WinTel' duopoly of machines running the Windows OS on Intel processors.

By coding for ARM, Microsoft is giving the British chip design firm the leg-up it needs to leverage the work it's been doing on ultra-low power chips for the mobile industry into laptops, nettops, servers, and even desktops - something Intel is understandably concerned about.

Although Microsoft hasn't yet confirmed a release date for Windows 8, a roadmap leaked to ZDNet reveals that work on Windows 8 Milestone 2 has now been completed - and suggests that the coding of Milestone 3 will begin early next week.

The 'Milestone' releases are internal alpha builds, released only to Windows engineers and a select number of trusted third parties. Windows 8 is thought to be scheduled to receive three Milestone builds before work begins on the first beta release - suggesting that Windows 8 Beta 1 could be due before the end of the year, judging by the M2 timeline.

With ARM licensees announcing increasingly powerful chips, such as Nvidia's Kal-El Tegra 3 design, the release of Windows 8 to the market could be the biggest disruption the industry has seen in many years.