Windows 8 and Windows RT are to be launched in October, alongside a portable USB-based version dubbed Windows To Go.
Microsoft has narrowed the launch window for its next-generation Windows 8 operating system, confirming that end-users will get their hands on the software in October.
While not announcing a specific launch day, Microsoft's Tami Reller, chief marketing officer of the Windows division, told attendees at the Wordwide Partner Conference in Toronto to expect the operating system to reach Release To Manufacturing (RTM) status in August and be available at retail by the end of October. That date holds true for 231 markets and 109 languages, Reller explained.
The October launch date has been confirmed for both Windows 8 and Windows RT, the ARM-compatible tablet-specific build which Microsoft hopes will be tackling the worrying popularity of Google's Linux-based Android and Apple's iOS platform in the tablet market. As a result, expect to see Microsoft Surface tablets in shops before the Christmas rush - although rumours pointing to yield issues with the ultra-thin magnesium-alloy chassis could mean supplies are initially limited.
Microsoft is going to have a fight on its hands to replicate the success of Windows 7, however. According to figures released by Reller at the event, the current generation of Windows desktop has sold more than 630 million copies, with over half of enterprise desktops now running some variant of Windows 7. With concerns being raised about the Metro interface and apparent focus on touch-screen technology in Windows 8 - a focus which will not go away, with Microsoft having today announced the acquisition of large-format multi-touch specialist Perceptive Pixel - it remains to be seen if business users are as quick to adopt Windows 8 as they were its predecessor.
At the same event, Microsoft showed off its answer to Linux 'Live CD' distributions - entire operating systems which run off a CD, DVD or USB stick with no installation required - with Windows To Go. Sold as a 32GB USB drive, Windows To Go allows any Windows 7 computer to boot into Windows 8 and retains the user's installed applications, files and settings. Pricing for Windows To Go has not yet been confirmed.