Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky has finally firmed up the launch schedule for his company's next-generation Windows 8 operating system, announcing that the software will be released to the public on the 26th of October.
Although the actual launch may vary by a couple of days in certain markets, the 26th of October marks the day that Windows 8 goes 'General Availability' - product-launch code for 'it should be on shop shelves now.' On that day, buyers will be able to pick up retail and upgrade editions from both high-street and internet retailers, while original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will be free to start shipping Windows 8 by default with their new hardware.
One thing Microsoft hasn't confirmed is the availability of its System Builders Edition, a special build of Windows 8 which provides a cheaper OEM-style licence for those building their own machines or running a small business that doesn't qualify for full-fat OEM licensing. While this should, theoretically, be available when the standard editions hit General Availability, Microsoft isn't stating categorically either way - and is quiet on how much buyers will save over a retail copy, too.
It's thought that Surface, Microsoft's Windows 8 and Windows RT family of tablet computers, will also be launching at the same time as Windows 8. Windows RT devices from other manufacturers, meanwhile, should follow closely behind.
One thing threatening to rain on Microsoft's parade - aside from some concern from users about the alleged benefits of the new Windows Phone-inspired Metro UI
- is the European Commission, which has confirmed plans to extend its investigation into Microsoft's allegedly anticompetitive practises in the software bundling market to include Windows 8.
The investigation, which led to the 'browser ballot' screen that asked Windows users whether they'd like to install an alternative web browser or just use Internet Explorer, will now address concerns regarding the integration of Internet Explorer into Windows 8 and the lack of APIs for adding third-party browsers to Windows RT.
According to a Commission spokesperson, the investigation is being extended as a result of allegations received by unnamed third parties, although none have gone so far as to file a formal complaint against the software giant.