Microsoft announced Wednesday that it will release the next version of its Windows operating system on Oct. 26.
Windows 8 is Microsoft’s big bet on touch and on tablets, with the company releasing two versions with the Windows 8 feel that are meant to better unify the mobile tablet and PC experience. The system has the “Metro” look that Microsoft has been building into all its products — from the Xbox to the Windows Phone — with its distinctive blocky layout and live-updating tiles.
The release is in line with expectations that the company would send its next version of Windows to consumers in October, as the company indicated earlier this month.
Microsoft is taking a big chance with Windows 8, putting much of the legacy look and feel of Windows to pasture in favor of the new interface. Not everything has changed— in fact, some reviewers have complained that Microsoft’s new system has an identity crisis as it works to support both new Metro applications and legacy Window applications.
Earlier this week, Microsoft introduced a new version of Office that builds in the touch interface and also makes the popular suite a cloud-first set of programs. That move, along with the decision to set upgrades to Windows 8 Pro at just $39.99, signals that Microsoft is trying very hard to get its customers off of older systems and programs and into the future.
Getting users to upgrade has been a problem for Microsoft. According to the analysis site NetMarketShare, about 40 percent of computers are still running Windows XP, just 1 percent ahead of the 39 percent market share from Windows 7.
The company has yet to announce when it will release its Surface tablet, which will run either a PC version of Windows 8 or the tablet version, known as Windows RT. The Surface also will be the only tablet on the market to have the Office suite — a clear advantage for Microsoft as it fights to take on the iPad and hold off Google’s cloud-based word-processing, spreadsheet and presentation software.
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