Microsoft FINALLY Sets Release Date for Windows 8

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced the release date for Windows 8 just one day before it was to report fourth-quarter earnings, which analysts say may show the first ever loss for the company after it had to write down the value of a troubled takeover. In 2007, Microsoft paid $6.3 billion for online advertising service Aquantive but has said the service did not perform as expected. As a result, its earnings will be offset by a $6.2 billion charge.

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Windows 8 will be released on October 26, significantly later than the end-of-summer date many had anticipated. Microsoft made the announcement at the firm’s annual sales meeting, and published it shortly thereafter on its blog. Microsoft has described the update as the most important redesign of its interface in more than a decade.

Windows 8 includes a touch-controlled interface dubbed Metro as well as a more traditional desktop. It will be released in versions that run on ARM (NASDAQ:ARMH) chips for the first time, as well as versions for x86-based chips designed by Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and AMD (NYSE:AMD).

The ARM version of the software will be used in Microsoft’s new Surface tablets, which were developed in-house. The Surface line is Microsoft’s first venture into tablet hardware — before, Windows 7 was used by third-party manufacturers to run their devices, but with little success. Windows-based tablets barely made a dent in a market dominated by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and to a lesser extent, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).

Microsoft has designed its new operating system so that it can power both desktop PCs and mobile devices, allowing programs to work on both in a move it hopes will give it a leg-up on Apple, which has different Mac OS X and iPad iOS systems.

Unfortunately, the new products and system mean some consumers have delayed purchases as they await their release, depressing Microsoft’s sales in the meantime. But investors still seem hopeful — Microsoft shares are up 17.3 percent this year to date.

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