SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Computers running on the next version of Microsoft's Windows operating system will go on sale in October.
Microsoft Corp. announced the time frame for Windows 8's mass-market release Monday in Toronto. A specific sales date in October wasn't provided.
Most industry analysts expected Windows 8 would go on sale in the fall to ensure that the machines running on the operating system would be available for the holiday shopping season. Consumers and businesses who don't want to buy new computers will be able to buy Windows 8 and upgrade their systems.
New versions of Windows typically come out every three years, but this update is the most widely anticipated overhaul of the software since 1995.
Applications will appear in a mosaic of tiles on Windows 8. Microsoft also designed the operating system so it can run on personal computers or touch-based tablet computers.
Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, plans to make its own tablet running on Windows 8 to compete against Apple Inc.'s hot-selling iPad. The company hasn't yet announced a price for its tablet, which will be called the Surface. It also will be competing against a variety of other tablets, including the Kindle Fire from Amazon.com Inc. and the Nexus 7, which is being released later this month by Google Inc.
As part of its efforts to develop more touch-based software, Microsoft also announced the acquisition of Perceptive Pixel Inc. The deal gives Microsoft access to technology used in large multi-touch displays for TV broadcasters, as well as government, defense, engineering and educational markets, Microsoft said.
Terms of the Perceptive Pixel purchase weren't disclosed.
Windows 8 is being counted on to help revive demand for laptops and other personal computers.
The operating system's versatility is expected to encourage leading PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. to release hybrid machines that are part laptop, part tablet computer. Both HP and Dell have also indicated they plan to release tablet computers powered by Windows 8, thrusting them into competition with Microsoft's Surface.
Microsoft is releasing Windows 8 computer manufacturers during the first week of August.
The high hopes riding on Windows 8 is the main reason that Microsoft's stock has climbed by about 15 percent so far this year. The shares fell 28 cents to $29.91 in Monday's early afternoon trading.
Typing on tablet computers can be a struggle for those accustomed to PC's physical keyboards. Microsoft Surface offers a solution with a lightweight keyboard attachment that clicks into place and doubles as a cover for the device. <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2012/jun12/06-18announce.aspx" target="_hplink">According to a Microsoft press release</a>, the 3mm detachable Touch Cover unfolds into a "unique pressure-sensitive" keypad that offers an alternative to the device's on-screen virtual keyboard. For those who crave the feel of physical keys, a 5mm-thin version, called the Type Cover, features moving keys and a <a href="http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/06/microsoft-dives-head-first-into-mobile-hardware-with-a-pair-of-10-6-inch-tablets/" target="_hplink">multi-touch track pad</a>.
Options For Casual And Power Users
Before picking up a Surface tablet, potential buyers should <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/global/surface/en/us/renderingassets/surfacespecsheet.pdf" target="_hplink">consider which version best fits their needs</a>: The Windows RT version, a more traditional tablet that's slim and light and performs basic tasks -- with a presumably iPad-like price tag; or the Windows 8 Pro configuration, a slightly beefier and slightly pricier tablet that's more closely related to a laptop and capable of running heavy-duty software. <br></br> <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/global/surface/en/us/renderingassets/surfacespecsheet.pdf" target="_hplink">Surface tablets running Windows RT</a> are built around an ARM processor. <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/09/technology/arm-ipad-intel/index.htm" target="_hplink">According to CNN,</a> chipsets made by ARM are found in 95 percent of other mobile devices, including the iPad. <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/global/surface/en/us/renderingassets/surfacespecsheet.pdf" target="_hplink">Windows 8 Pro models</a> are built around an Intel chip and will run applications that one would expect to find on traditional laptops: <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/257840/microsoft_announces_surface_tablet_pc.html" target="_hplink">Photoshop, Word, and Excel.</a> <br></br> "Those looking for a complete Windows experience in the form of a tablet will obviously need to pony up for the Windows 8 Pro model," <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/18/microsoft-surface-tablets-the-differences-between-rt-and-window/" target="_hplink"> Engadget writes.</a>
Microsoft is keen on packing convenience into its new devices. Each Surface comes with a built-in kickstand that pops out from the back panel and props the device at an angle, letting the user enjoy media or type comfortably on a flat surface. "No extra weight, no extra thickness, no separate add-on. It's integrated, just like the software and hardware are integrated into Surface," said Windows and Windows Live president Steven Sinofsky, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jozTK-MqEXQ" target="_hplink">per the Verge's video of the Surface unveiling</a>.
Digital Ink And Stylus
Microsoft designed the <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/global/surface/en/us/renderingassets/surfacespecsheet.pdf" target="_hplink">Windows 8 Pro version</a> of the Surface tablet to accept stylus input. The company's demonstration of how the digital ink works gave the impression that writing, highlighting and underlining on the tablet is easy. <a href="http://www.slashgear.com/microsoft-surface-to-feature-digital-ink-stylus-support-18234493/" target="_hplink">Writes SlashGear</a>, "The distance between the screen (digitizer) and the stylus is only .7mm thick, and allows for it to be highly accurate, making you feel like the ballpoint of a pen is actually writing on the 'surface.'"
Both the RT and Win 8 Pro versions of Surface will run the Microsoft Office productivity suite, though the Windows RT version <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/257840/microsoft_announces_surface_tablet_pc.html" target="_hplink">will get a mobile-optimized app</a>, instead of the full program. Meanwhile, iPad owners must settle for <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/05/nyt-office-for-ipad-is-still-on/" target="_hplink">speculation of the long-rumored native iOS Office app.</a>.
Plenty of people weren't happy when the iPad launched <a href="http://store.apple.com/us/question/answers/ipad?tqid=QJ9CA7CXXFHDFUUU7PT47A24U4YAUH79K" target="_hplink">without USB ports back in 2010.</a> Microsoft seems to have taken that to heart. The <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/global/surface/en/us/renderingassets/surfacespecsheet.pdf" target="_hplink">width of the Surface</a> offers just enough space for a traditional USB. Both the RT and the Windows 8 Pro versions of Surface boast two USB ports. "These ports open up the possibility of extra storage, printing and other external capabilities that should be easier and quicker than the workarounds iPad users need involving cloud storage, Wi-Fi connections and the like," <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/19/tech/microsoft-surface-ipad/index.html" target="_hplink">CNN reports.</a>
An Angled Approach
Just like the iPad, the Surface tablet includes <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/en-us/webcams" target="_hplink">two built-in webcams</a> for snapping pictures or video chatting. The Surface's kickstand, however, angles the device at 22 degrees, pointing the front-facing camera up at the user's face. <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en/us/about.aspx" target="_hplink">Microsoft set the rear-facing camera into the device at 22 degrees</a>, so that the user's not shooting down at the table when filming a subject.