The keyboard of a Microsoft Corp. Surface tablet computer is displayed during an event in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. (Scott Eells/BLOOMBERG)

The next version of Windows is expected sometime this fall, but ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley is narrowing the timeline down even further, reporting that the system will move to manufacturers this month and hit store shelves in October.

That follows more or less the same timing as the 8.1’s predecessor, Windows 8, which went to manufacturers ahead of general distribution on Aug. 1 of last year. Windows 8 was available to general consumers on Oct. 26, of last year.

Windows 8.1 is a recalibration of last year’s radically different Windows system, and walks back some of the more drastic changes Microsoft made for Windows 8, such as adding back the start button. Windows 8.1 also includes tweaks such as smaller Live Tiles and more search integration.

Microsoft had hoped that Windows 8, which was built to have a touch interface that could also be operated with a keyboard and mouse, would help the company boost sales of PCs with touchscreens. But the PC market, so far, hasn’t seen a boom from the new version of Windows. In fact, sales of personal computers have continued to slow and Computerworld reported Monday that research IDC recently cut its estimate for sales of touch-based PCs to 10 percent to15 percent of the market rather than the 17 percent to 18 percent the firm predicted earlier this year. Touch PCs, the report said, are still too expensive for most people, but won’t come down in price until they become more popular.

And as Microsoft prepares to launch its retooled operating system, the company also is planning to discontinue support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014 — meaning it will no longer release general patches for the software to address things such as security threats. According to the Web analytics firm NetMarketShare, XP is still the second-most popular operating system in the world, behind Windows 7, with around 37 percent of the desktop market.

Many businesses are still using XP, having opted not to update their computers to Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8, and — as The Washington Post reported— are looking for help transitioning from the 12-year-old system.

A separate report from Computerworld also noted that there’s another group out there looking forward to April 4: hackers. The report noted that hackers may bide their time and take advantage of security holes they find in XP until Microsoft ends its official support.