Microsoft to launch Windows 8 in October, report says

Analyst remains skeptical, believes date-driven release would be major mistake

Microsoft will wrap up Windows 8 this summer, according to a report by Bloomberg on Monday.

Computer and tablet makers, known as OEMs for "original equipment manufacturers," will have Windows 8-powered PCs and tablets ready to sell in October, Bloomberg said.

The Windows 8 operating system will come in two flavors: Windows 8 for traditional PCs and business-grade slates and tablets, and Windows on ARM (WOA) for consumer tablets.

Microsoft declined to comment on the Bloomberg report, which cited what the news organization called "people with knowledge of the schedule," who asked for anonymity.

Neither a summer wrap-up or an October sales launch would be a surprise: Microsoft finished Windows 7 three years ago this July and launched that OS on Oct. 22, 2009. New PCs went on sale at the same time, just as the holiday shopping season was getting into gear.

Analysts have expected that Microsoft is shooting for a similar fall release of Windows 8, possibly in October, to follow in Windows 7's successful footsteps and avoid a repeat of the timing of Windows Vista, which missed 2006's holiday season when it fell behind schedule and didn't ship until January 2007.

Microsoft has not disclosed a release date for Windows 8 but recently hinted that it would be this year.

The release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview at the end of last month was a clue that a fall 2012 debut was in the cards.

Microsoft released the first Windows 7 developer-oriented build at the end of October 2008, offered a public beta in January 2009, and pushed the final version onto shelves the third week of October 2009.

Although Windows 8's Consumer Preview appeared about seven weeks later in the calendar than the Windows 7 beta -- at the end of February compared to the latter's early January -- Windows 8's Developer Preview launched a month earlier than Windows 7's: in mid-September 2011 compared with October 2008. Those differences might make the two schedules a wash.

But at least one analyst wasn't buying the idea that October was a done deal.

"No, I don't think it's realistic," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft, a research firm that tracks only Microsoft's moves, in an email reply to questions Monday. "While the Consumer Preview shows progress from the Developer Preview, it is still extremely rough, and many things are broken."

Cherry ticked off several problems he has encountered with the Consumer Preview, including an inability to link a Microsoft Bluetooth keyboard with a Windows 8 PC and the Metro-style Mail app not connecting to an Exchange server.

Although Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft's top Windows executive, made his reputation by keeping Office releases on schedule, Cherry said a stubbornness to ship Windows 8 on time, come hell or high water, might be the wrong move.

"I think it would be a mistake if they allowed themselves to be date-driven," Cherry said. "One of the worst things that could happen, in my opinion, would be to ship a product for the holidays that disappoints in any way."

Microsoft, other analysts have said, is gambling big on Windows 8 -- "betting the farm," in the words of one -- because the upgrade's emphasis on touch and tablets could alienate enterprise customers.

Although Microsoft needs to address its tablet problem -- it has nothing to compete with Apple's popular iPad, which entered its third generation last week amid record-setting sales -- analysts have argued that the touch-centric operating system won't give businesses many reasons to upgrade their desktops and notebooks.

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