In its annual report filed this week with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Microsoft said,
"The next version of our operating system, Windows 8, will be generally available on October 26, 2012. At that time, we will begin selling the Surface, a series of Microsoft-designed and manufactured hardware devices."
Microsoft earlier said that its Surface RT tablets would be available at the same time as Windows 8, but strangely, since it did not reconfirm the statement when it announced the ship date of Windows 8. Thus, it's good to see the date in writing.
Microsoft is going all-out with Windows 8, and it shows. The new platform will ship in only two consumer versions, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Professional, and Microsoft is allowing Windows XP, Vista and 7 users (all of them) to upgrade to Windows 8 at the low, low price of $39.99.
Microsoft told the SEC it was going all-out, too. The report had warnings throughout it about how important Windows 8 was to the company:
Not everyone loves Windows 8 and its Metro-style UI. That includes end users who are used to the current UI, as well as some high-profile companies, such as Blizzard and Valve.
It's possible you might see some folks buy PCs late in the year in an attempt to get Windows 7 preinstalled, rather than Windows 8. Time will tell.
One other thing that time will tell: whether or not consumers will buy Microsoft's surfact tablets. For us, the Windows 8 Professional version is far more attractive, but that won't ship until Q1 2013. It's still unclear how Microsoft will price these tablets, too.