Windows 8 looks on track for an October release

by David Needle

March 19 2012

Microsoft is banking on the new look, tile-based Windows 8 to usher in a new generation of tablet competitors to the iPad.
Microsoft is banking on the new look, tile-based Windows 8 to usher in a new generation of tablet competitors to the iPad.

Will Windows 8 be a hit? If all goes as planned we should see the first computers to ship with a finished version of Microsoft’s next generation operating system designed for tablets by this October.

There isn’t a lot of mystery attached to what Windows 8 is, but just how successful it will be is the great unknown -- along with precisely when it will be ready for prime time and shipping in new devices. Microsoft released a developer version of Windows 8 last fall and recently unveiled the Consumer Preview, essentially a more refined beta test version that anyone can download. 

While Microsoft has long counted on computers running Intel and AMD chips, the company is also for the first time supporting manufacturers of devices based on the ARM chipset for Windows 8. ARM chips, known for their energy savings features, power the majority of smartphones and tablets including Apple’ iPhone and iPad.

Some of Microsoft’s (and for that matter Intel’s) traditional big name hardware partners like Dell and HP have already said they plan to make Windows 8 tablets. Microsoft has said it “hoped” ARM-based devices will be available at launch along with those based on Intel chips, but according to a report by Bloomberg BusinessWeek today, that scenario is looking more definite. 

Citing unnamed “people with knowledge of the schedule,” Bloomberg says PCs and tablets preloaded with the new OS will go on sale “around October” and will include devices based both on ARM and Windows chips. 

But the ARM devices will be few at launch (fewer than five) while more than 40 Intel-based computers will launch with Windows 8. 

One of the reasons there will fewer ARM-based devices in the rollout is because Microsoft has set rigorous quality-control standards and is tightly controlling at least the initial number of devices, according to one source in the report. 

Microsoft is also reportedly planning an industry event for early April where it will spell out more details of its Windows 8 release strategy.

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