Microsoft Set Release Windows 8 This Fall

Microsoft has refused to comment on the report that Windows 8 will be out in October.

Microsoft's next-generation operating system is expected to be available this fall, says an anonymous source.

One big question for Windows 8 on its release: How many devices will support the mobile version of the OS, which is the main driver behind Microsoft's quick development cycle?

Microsoft is expected to start releasing Windows 8 to manufacturers sometime this summer to prepare for that fall release, according to information provided by unnamed sources in a Bloomberg story published today. The summer release-to-manufacturing (RTM) milestone will mark the phase when Microsoft ships off the finished bits to device manufacturers for imaging on new hardware products.

Bloomberg's sources indicated that there will be 40 "Intel" or x86-based machines released running Windows 8 when launched. In contrast, just five ARM-based Windows 8 devices are expected at that time. The product release of Windows 8 on both x86 and ARM devices is expected to happen at the same time, according to earlier comments from Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division.

A Windows 8 partner event is planned for sometime in early April, according to Bloomberg's sources.

A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to confirm any of those rumored Windows 8 milestones, which isn't supposed to be public knowledge. Currently, Windows 8 is available to the public as a "consumer preview," or beta, for testing purposes.

The Windows 8 RTM date for this summer tracks closely with earlier rumors from unnamed hardware manufacturers, as chronicled by the publication DigiTimes. Those sources had predicted a June or July RTM date for Windows 8. It's not exactly clear which x86 processors will run Windows 8, but some possible candidates, such as Intel's "Clovertrail" and "Ivy Bridge" processors, seem timed for summer release.

An October general release of Windows 8 falls within expectations, according to Al Gillen, program vice president for system software at analyst firm IDC.

"That has been the expectation all along," Gillen explained via e-mail. "To make a holiday-2012 shopping season, MSFT must have gold code by end of August. Miss Holiday 2012, and it is very, very bad for Microsoft. That is a can't miss deadline."

Windows 8 represents a somewhat radical departure for Microsoft because of Windows 8's dual user interface, with its classic "desktop" and new touch-based "Metro" experiences -- all in one OS. Windows 8 also marks a move by Microsoft to unify its desktop and mobile device OS development efforts. It's a strategy that flies in the face of mobile device leaders such as Apple, which separates the desktop and mobile code bases. Microsoft's Windows Phone OS has the same Metro UI look as Windows 8, but the two codebases are separate -- for now.

Windows 8 can run on desktop computers as well as tablets, and the ARM-based versions are expected to the boost battery lifetimes of mobile devices in various form factors. Analysts at Gartner have speculated that Microsoft will be able to move Windows 8 into enterprise environments largely through consumer adoption of Windows 8. However, while consumers might like the Metro UI, it could be less compelling in the enterprise space, according to Gillen.

"On tablet devices, [Metro] is a mandatory component and, as such, will be compelling," Gillen stated. "That said, the harder sell is going to be to enterprise customers running PCs. There are integral benefits of Windows 8 (the OS) to PC users, but benefits of the Metro UI are not immediately evident to users or IT professionals charged with supporting PC deployments."

The choice of ARM and x86 platforms could be a stumbling point for the public since ARM-based devices are expected to run only the new Metro-style applications available through Microsoft's Windows Store and not so-called "legacy" or currently available apps. In contrast, it's expected that x86-based Windows 8 machines will be able to run most applications that ran on Windows 7, plus the new Metro apps.

"It remains to be seen how Microsoft positions and markets Windows 8 on x86 vs. Windows 8 on ARM, and how the devices are supported by other Microsoft products," Gillen stated. "There is a good potential for confusion, starting with the [Windows 8] name."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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