Microsoft puts a bow on Windows 8, sets official release date

Windows 8 code has been sent to manufacturers, Microsoft exec Steve Sinofsky announced this week. 

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    The new Microsoft Surface tablet is shown at an event in Los Angeles. The Surface will run a version of the Windows 8 operating system, which is expected to launch this fall.
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Windows 8 is a go. 

In a post on the Windows 8 blog, Microsoft exec Steve Sinofsky announced that Windows 8 has been officially released to hardware manufacturers, which will begin to incorporate the operating system into tablets, computers, and smartphones. If all goes as planned, PCs equipped with Windows 8 will become available on Oct. 26, Sinofsky added. (A new report indicates that Microsoft may release the Surface tablet around the same time.) 

"While we have reached our [release to manufacturer] milestone, no software project is ever really 'done,' " Sinofsky wrote. "We will continue to monitor and act on your real world experiences with Windows 8—we’ve used the preview process to test out our servicing and we have every intent of doing a great job on this next important phase of the product. Hardware partners will continue to provide new devices and improve support for existing devices."

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Windows 8, which launched in consumer preview mode back in February, will ship in three different versions. Most of us desktop users will end up with plain ol' Windows 8, which takes the familiar Windows experience, and spices it up with a few functionalities stolen from the world of tablets and smartphones, including apps and social-media compatibility. Windows 8 Pro, meanwhile, is Windows 8 for computer nerds and tech professionals. 

And then there's Windows RT – essentially Windows 8 for tablets such as the in-house Surface. Expect loads of tiles, cascading apps, and a touch-centric interface. You won't actually be able to buy Windows RT separately, of course. Instead, it will come preloaded on mobile hardware built by companies such as HP and Samsung – or, in the case of the Surface, by Microsoft itself. 

It's worth noting here that we may be nearing the end of the era of the desktop-only operating system. Both Apple's Mountain Lion and Microsoft's Windows 8 crib liberally from mobile OS design. Which makes sense: We are increasingly a country of smartphone and tablet users. We're becoming wired to think in terms of apps and wireless updates and "notification centers" – not in terms of folders and Start buttons.  

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