Well, it's official: Windows 8 will become commercially available in late October. Microsoft spilled the beans at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto this morning, and the folks at AFP received further confirmation from Microsoft's Communications Manager, Brandon LeBlanc:
LeBlanc said the company "confirmed that Windows 8 is on track to release to manufacturing (RTM) the first week of August" and "will reach general availability by the end of October."
Windows 8 will be following in the illustrious footsteps of Windows XP and Windows 7. The former hit stores on October 25, 2001, and the latter arrived on October 22, 2009. Windows Vista was released out of cycle, in late January '07, but I think the October releases worked out better for Microsoft.
Some of us are already running Windows 8 right now, of course. The Release Preview has been out since May, and other pre-release builds came before it. We understand the Release Preview will remain usable until January 2013.
By then, chances are you'll have had a chance to snag a discounted copy of the retail OS. Microsoft plans to allow XP, Vista, and Win7 users to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only $39.99, and it will charge even less—only $14.99—for upgrades from eligible Windows 7 PCs purchased since June 2 of this year. Considering the lukewarm response Windows 8 has gotten (thanks in no small part to its new Metro user interface), I expect the discounts will help Microsoft drum up much-needed enthusiasm ahead of the holiday shopping rush.