After months of pre-release versions, and days after debuting Office 2013, Microsoft has unveiled the official release date for Windows 8.
During Microsoft’s annual sales meeting, Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live divisions, announced that the final release to manufacture (RTM) version of Windows 8 will go on sale on Friday, October 26th. On that date, the general public will be able to put the touch-friendly OS through its paces in “upgrade fashion or on a new PC,” according to Microsoft Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc.
Windows 8 is a departure for Microsoft, in more ways than one.
One of the biggest differences between Windows 8 and its predecessors is the new Metro user interface. Dominated by touch-enabled, self-updating tiles, Metro harkens to the company’s UI work that guided Zune, Windows Phone 7 and the latest iteration of Xbox 360 dashboard.
With Windows 8, Microsoft is hoping that Metro and its new app ecosystem will help the software company establish a foothold in the hot tablet market.
In another bold move, Microsoft revealed that the company is taking an Apple-like approach to pricing Windows 8. Earlier this month, the software giant announced that Windows customers (Windows XP, Vista and 7) can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro online for just $39.99.
For comparison’s sake, a Windows 7 Home Ultimate upgrade from XP and Vista costs $120 at Microsoft’s online store. The retail DVD version of the Windows 8 upgrade will sell for $79.99.
Tablet Wars Heat Up
October 26th also marks a turning point for Microsoft on the hardware front.
Last month, Microsoft took the wraps off Surface, a self-branded Windows 8/RT tablet. Set to launch alongside Windows 8, Surface marks the software giant’s effort to make a splash in a tablet market that’s currently dominated by Apple’s iPad.
While Surface sports a sleek design and consumer friendly features, Microsoft is also signaling that it won’t cede the enterprise mobile market to Apple — at least not without a fight. Initially, Surface will ship with Windows RT, the ARM processor compatible version of Windows 8 that also comes bundled with Office 2013. An Intel-based Surface model will follow roughly 90 days later.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.