Microsoft to Apple: Bring it on

Windows 8 will be released in October, Microsoft announced at a conference today. Microsoft showed off some of the devices that will run Windows 8, and also announced its acquisition of touchscreen company Perceptive Pixel.

Michelle McLoughlin/AP/File
Microsoft announced today that Windows 8, its next-generation operating system, will be available to consumers in October. Here, people line up for the opening of a Microsoft store in Danbury, CT on June 23.

A detail here, a tidbit there: we're finding out the specifics of Windows 8 a little bit at a time. We know how much Windows 8 will cost (a penny under $40 for most upgraders) and now we have a date, or at least a timeframe: the first PCs running Microsoft's latest OS will be available in late October.

Microsoft announced the release at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto on Monday, coyly declining to give the exact date Windows 8 will be available. No surprise that it'll drop in October: that's what most analysts were expecting, given that the Windows 8 Release Preview came out in late May (an October release also means Windows 8 computers, tablets, and smart phones will be ready in time for the holiday shopping season). The final version of the OS will be released to manufacturers at the beginning of August.

Microsoft has placed much of its future on this new release. As Apple gobbles up 25 percent of the American computer market with its MacBooks and around 60 percent of the tablet market with the iPad, Microsoft hopes the new OS can pull double duty. Windows 8's Metro interface will aid PCs, become the sole OS for tablets, and take on a modified form with Windows phones.  

In an interview with Computer Reseller News, CEO Steve Ballmer said that "we are not going to let any piece of this [go uncontested to Apple].... Not the consumer cloud. Not hardware software innovation. We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself. Not going to happen. Not on our watch."

Microsoft also used its stage time at the conference to announce its acquisition of Perceptive Pixel, a company that develops and produces multitouch screens, including giant, flat displays that support hundreds of different inputs at once. Ballmer spent some time envisioning a screen that is a white board, video-conferencing system, and PC all in one unit -- all powered by Windows 8, of course.

Even if you've never heard of Perceptive Pixel, you might be familiar with its work: CNN used its touch screens in their coverage of the 2008 presidential election, and the screens have since become common fixtures in other networks' newsrooms. The company also built the giant 82-inch touch screen Microsoft used to demo Windows 8 back in February.

The Worldwide Partner Conference wasn't just about Microsoft, though. The company also showed off devices from partners like Samsung, Acer, and Lenovo, and one thing's for sure: Windows 8 will be running on a wide array of hardware. VP Tami Reller said Microsoft had worked with hardware companies to produce "literally hundreds" of designs, and she took the opportunity to show off several Ultrabooks, PCs, and tablets (including a few tablet-computer hybrids).

In the wake of the announcement there's also a rumor floating around that Samsung -- now the world's biggest phone maker -- will unveil a tablet running Windows 8 when the software debuts. Bloomberg quotes unnamed sources "with knowledge of the matter," who say that Samsung's tablet will be released at about the same time as Microsoft's own 10.6-inch Surface device.

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