It's official: After months of speculation, Microsoft has set an official release date for Windows 8, its first update to the Windows operating system in almost three years.
After teasing that Windows 8 would be available toward the end of October, Windows President Steven Sinofsky officially announced that the next-generation of Windows will be released on October 26. That's when you'll be able to download it to your PC or purchase a new computer with Windows 8, according to a post on the official Windows Team Blog.
Microsoft had previously announced that an upgrade from Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 will cost $40 for a digital-only download.
For Microsoft, October 26th is set to be a big day: Windows 8 is one of the most ambitious overhauls of Windows in years, perhaps ever. It features two separate interfaces: the traditional desktop version, with a start bar and icons, as well as a radical new touch-friendly "Metro" interface with the large, fluid live tiles of the Windows Phone operating system. Many key apps, including Internet Explorer, have been redesigned to run in Metro, while others, such as the recently unveiled Microsoft Office suite, will function as desktop apps.
It is unclear how the general public will react to this radical design change; early reviews have been mixed, which is not a good sign for a Windows user base that has been typically resistant to change. (It took until October 2011 for Windows 7, released in 2009, to surpass Windows XP, released in 2001, as the most used Windows OS). With Windows 8, Microsoft is certainly hoping to avoid another Vista-like revolt.
In the days before Halloween 2012, Microsoft will begin to learn whether it has a fan favorite or a dud in its new operating system. Too, the Microsoft Surface tablet should also be out around October 26th, as Microsoft execs had promised that its first foray into hardware would be out concurrently with the new operating system; we'll also start seeing how well that tablet can sell, up against Apple's market-leading iPad (and perhaps a new iPad Mini).
October 26th, in other words, is one of the biggest days in Microsoft history. Mark your calendars.