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Microsoft has officially announced the release date for the long-awaited next update of the Windows operating system, Windows 8. Windows 8 is set to release on October 26, 2012.

Steven Sinofsky announced this date at Microsoft’s annual sales meeting and The Windows Blog shared the news. The Windows 8 release date is what everyone was predicting. You can mark the date on your calendars if you are waiting to upgrade to the final version of Windows 8.

From October 26, 2012, consumers will be able to either buy the operating or they can buy Windows 8 upgrade at promo price of $39.99. Earlier, Microsoft did hinted that Windows 8 is coming in the last week of October.

Microsoft has made available Windows 8 Developer Preview for download from their new Windows Dev Center.

Microsoft has made available Windows 8 Developer Preview which is the pre-Beta release of the next major version of the Windows operating system. Through this build, Microsoft is offering developers, testers and early adopters first taste of Windows 8. Windows 8 comes with Internet Explorer 10 (IE10), a new Metro platform for immersive applications, enhanced performance, its own Windows Store, and much more.

Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, has promised that Windows 8 will release in 2012.

Steve Ballmer, while speaking at Microsoft’s Developer Forum in Japan on Monday, promised Windows 8 to be released not only to computers but across PCs, tablets and slates next year. “As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8,” said Ballmer. “Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors.”

Ballmer’s statement about Windows 8 is a stark contrast to that of his colleagues. Microsoft execs have avoided any references to the timing or naming of the next version of Windows. They avoided calling the next version of Windows, “Windows 8” publicly, preferring instead to call it “Windows Next.” Steven Sinofsky and the Windows team typically refers to Windows 8 as the “next-generation” of Windows, avoiding the 8 branding.

A number of top blogs are reporting that Microsoft has begun to distribute early copies of Windows 8 to key OEM partners via Microsoft Connect. The software giant’s Connect is an external testing system, My Technology Guide has learned that the company is distributing build 7971.0.110324-1900.

According to one poster at the My Digital Life forums, the program is advertised as Windows 8 and Server vNext Pre-Release Program, on Microsoft’s Connect site and requires a special invite code.

OEM’s have received an invitation code to download Windows 8 via Connect. Following is the download URL but the invitation code has been removed for obvious reasons:

http://connect.microsoft.com/site1094/InvitationUse.aspx?ProgramID=5474&InvitationID=XXX-XXXX-XXXX

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Windows 7 (Image Credit Microsoft)

Microsoft announced that Windows 7 is ready and will be available to select users in two weeks.

Brandon LeBlanc, Windows Communication Manager for Microsoft, have mentioned the dates for Windows 7 RTM availability for the relevant parties at the Windows Team Blog. Windows 7, the much-anticipated operating system was completed on Wednesday.

Microsoft said in a press release that Windows 7 will be available for the general public on October 22nd, Independent software and hardware vendor partners would be able to download Windows 7 RTM copy on August 6th and Gold/Certified members of Microsoft Partner Program will get their copy on August 16th, Volume License Customers will get their copies from Volume License Service Center on August 7th.