Windows 8 Coming in October

The new operating system will release to manufacturing (RTM) in August.

TORONTO -- Microsoft's hybrid desktop/mobile operating system, Windows 8, will be released in October.

The company made the announcement at its global partner conference Monday morning.

Tami Reller, a senior executive on the Windows team, said that Windows 8 will release to manufacturing (RTM) in the first week of August.

Reller said new systems from OEMs would be available at general availability, with more systems to follow. She said Windows 8 would be available in 109 markets.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer set up Reller's announcement with typical enthusiasm. "Windows 8 is simply the biggest deal from our company in 17 years," Ballmer said. He called Windows 8 a "huge opportunity, huge opportunity for our partners." Listing the opportunities, he called out ISVs for apps in the Windows Store, solution providers for system upgrades and OEMs for new hardware.

Windows Server 2012 will also reach RTM in the first week of August with general availability expected in September, Microsoft announced in a Windows Server blog post on Monday.

The RTM and GA date brings into focus the channel conflict Microsoft recently introduced by announcing its own hardware for Windows 8 -- the Microsoft Surface. The version of the Surface for the ARM-based Windows RT operating system is supposed to be available with general availability, while the Surface for Windows 8 Pro is supposed to ship 90 days later. The new GA schedule puts the Windows 8 Pro version of Surface on the market in January.

At WPC, a gathering of 16,000 partners, Microsoft took care to highlight OEM devices that would be coming out for Windows 8, and to downplay the volume potential of the Surface.

Referring to forecasts that 375 million Windows PCs would be sold over the next 12 months, Ballmer said the Surface would only account for "a few million" of those. He said Microsoft has a mutual goal with OEM partners to bring a diversity of solutions to market. "What we seek to have is a spectrum of stunning Windows devices, so every consumer can say I have the perfect PC for me," Ballmer said.

With that backdrop, Reller showed off a number of OEM devices, starting with an Acer Aspire S7 thin and light notebook with a 13-inch touch screen. She demonstrated very fast touch scrolling in Windows 8 on the device. Reller also showed ASUS convertibles, the Fujitsu Stylistic Q702, the HP Spectre XT Pro, the Lenovo A720 and the Lenovo Yoga. She also demonstrated a Samsung Series 9 with no touchscreen but that did have a big touchpad that allowed Windows 8 gestures.

In a move to keep Windows 7 sales going, Reller also announced that new buyers of Windows 7 will be eligible for a $14.99 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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