According to a report from Bloomberg earlier today, Microsoft plans to finish up all work on Windows 8 by summer 2012 and release the new version of the operating system during October 2012. The official announcement of the release date as well as other information on scheduling will occur during April 2012 at an event for industry partners. The October timing of the release will coincide with the holiday shopping season allowing Microsoft to package Windows 8 with laptops, desktops and tablets from third party manufacturer such as Dell, HP, Gateway, Sony, Asus, Toshiba, Lenovo and Acer.
If Microsoft misses the targeted October 2012 release, Apple may continue to dominate the tablet market with the new iPad. According to Gartner Inc. analyst Michael Gartenberg, he stated “If they (Microsoft) miss the September-October timeframe, they’re going to be stuck without being able to ship anything in 2012. The last thing Microsoft wants to have is a situation where there are no compelling Windows tablets at a time when the new iPad looks like it’s going to be a good seller for the holidays.”
During early March, the same analyst firm predicted that PC shipments would be weak throughout 2012 and grow at a rate of 4.4 percent this year. The firm expects that ultrabooks will start to gain steam over the second half of the year and traditional desktops as well as laptops will continue to suffer due to the increased popularity of tablets. While the economy is a contributing factor to the weakness of PC market growth, Gartner also mentions the Thailand flooding issues as a contributing cause. The floods caused massive destruction and decreased the world’s supply of hard drives and other computer components.
Microsoft recently released the consumer preview of Windows 8 during late February and is encouraging Windows users to take the new user interface for a test drive. The operating system has a greater integration with SkyDrive, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s iCloud. While SkyDrive has been around for approximately five years, Microsoft is encouraging third party developers to utilize the sharing functions in upcoming applications to take advantage of cloud sharing. Microsoft also integrates the recent Xbox 360 dashboard redesign into Windows 8 and allows a user to log into their Xbox Live account. From the Windows 8 interface, the user can launch Xbox 360 console games in addition to stream content to the gaming console.
In addition to the release of Windows 8, Microsoft is prepping for the launch of Office 15. Similar to the new operating system, Office 15 adopts the Metro-style according to Paul Thurrott at Supersite for Windows. The Start screen of Office 15 is littered with the Metro-style blocks containing recently opened Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. Within Microsoft Word, there’s a new full-screen mode that allows users to simply type a document without the toolbars at the top of the screen; ideal for the tablet where screen space is crucial. Office 15 includes Microsoft ID integration which logs the user into services like Windows Live Messenger and Hotmail. It also includes support for third party applications like Linkedin and Flickr.