Whether you like the changes in the next version of Microsoft's operating system or not, Windows 8 is on track for its October 26 launch. Today, Microsoft announced that Win8 has been released to manufacturing, which means the product's development and testing are essentially complete. The blog post I just linked offers a nice roadmap of what comes next, from the distribution of Win8 to PC makers and developers on August 15th through the general availability of the OS and systems based on it in late October.
I'm very curious to see what happens next, and I feel like it's not something one could necessarily predict. All of the components of a bizarre failure are there, including sweeping interface changes that don't work especially well with touchpads and mice and an apparent closing off of the open Windows software ecosystem via the imposition of the Microsoft Store. At the same time, the addition of a new touch-centric interface and some nice enhancements for desktop power users could conceivably make Win8 popular with those who upgrade. The $39.99 upgrade price certainly lowers the stakes for those who give it a shot. Hmm.