Expect Windows 8 in October, or not at all this year

This should be obvious, but something needs to be stated by somebody: Based on previous development cycles, Microsoft's plans for public beta and the PC market's desperate need for a new OS this year, Windows 8 is tracking for October launch. Actually, the public beta coming this month is the last milestone for hitting October, otherwise Microsoft might be forced to repeat history and, like Windows Vista, miss the holidays. That's unthinkable.

By measure of Windows 7, its successor is actually trailing behind development track for October. Microsoft released Windows 7 Beta 1 in early January 2009. Windows 8 public beta is expected six weeks or more later. Typically, Microsoft would have offered a second Windows 7 beta but went right to release candidate. Windows 8 would need similar accelerated track to be ready for the holidays. Just one snag: The new OS is much more ambitious. There's new Metro UI, ARM processor support and architectural changes that hugely impact developers. Oh, yeah. Microsoft is launching a software store, too. End-of-February to October launch is a stretch.

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Be sure that Windows & Windows Live division president Steven Sinofsky and team have a good idea where they are and where they need to be to ship Windows 8 this year. February is the key milestone month, the last beta launch window to hit holiday 2012. Case in point: Windows Vista. Microsoft couldn't get out a beta by the end of February 2006. In late March, the company stunned techdom by announcing Windows Vista wouldn't ship for the holidays. My God! How do you miss Christmas!

OEMs need time to test new Windows versions, put together software images and ship PCs into the channel. Even in this era of real-time manufacturing, retail remains the primary sales channel. PC manufacturers still need a good six weeks from final Windows code's release to manufacturing to actual launch -- a little longer to get PCs in stores. Ideally, then, Windows 8 must RTM by end of August to make October launch, which is best timeframe assuring the channel is stocked for Black Friday.

Windows 7 released to manufacturing in late July 2009 and launched in late October of that year. There was a full 12 weeks in between, and Windows 7 didn't require much more from developers or OEMs than Vista. Windows 8 demands much more from both groups -- and business customers, too.

Windows 8 won't be a big business launch. It's all consumer this time. The majority of enterprises will have just completed or soon will finish Windows 7 deployments by autumn. Then there are the changes under the hood and user interface, including Metro and Ribbon, that give IT managers and developers the willies. Sure, massive enterprise adoption is inevitable, but not right away. Well, somebody corporate will want Windows 8 tablets sooner than later.

Successful consumer launch is essential, and that means Microsoft must make the holidays -- or face another Windows Vista disaster. Consumer PC sales are down, based on data from Gartner, IDC and Microsoft -- that's for all 2011 and projected for at least first half of this year. Correction: Windows PC sales are way down. Macs are selling just fine, thank you.

That makes holiday 2012 all the more important and the next six months absolutely crucial for Microsoft and its partners. Given the timetable's tightness compared to Windows 7 and how it tracks against Windows Vista's delay, I could post something radically predicting that 8 will be late. But I have confidence in Sinofsky and team based on how they turned around Windows 7 after Vista's failure to launch (or to be widely adopted). Additionally, Microsoft plans to launch the Windows Store concurrent with the public beta, which foreshadows that OS development is far along.

Still, I must conclude that to broadly make holiday 2012, Windows 8 must RTM in August (sooner would be better) and launch in October. Fall-back scenario would push gold code to September and limited availability for the holidays. Worst case: Windows Vista-like delay.

29 Responses to Expect Windows 8 in October, or not at all this year

  1. Anonymous says:

    "..the PC market's desperate need for a GOOD new OS this year"

    Fixed it for you.  A shame that nothing can fix Windows 8 at this point.

    • Anonymous says:

      It was hard enough to get IT folks off of Program Manager. Just because Windows 8 has something new doesn't mean it's a bad thing. You'd probably rather be on IE 6 too I suppose. I'm sure it was such a pain updating things for IE 7 or later. It's really not, but some people complain too much.

    • mlewis says:

      Windows 8 tablets are going to stomp a new A$$ in the ifad.
      Fully blown OS, enterprise features, consumer features, next generation UI, reliable, fast, largest selection of apps (eventually), what more do you want???!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Your mistake is thinking Ballmer isn't doing this deliberately.  For that to be true the CEO of a major multinational technology megacorporation would have to have killed off his dominant 40+ percent position in a major and emerging market segment - mobile - just as it was becoming larger than his company's entire monopoly-based controlled ecosystem and on the verge of replacing it.  And he would have to have kept his job confidently throughout.  That's not logical, is it?

      Steve Ballmer wants and needs Windows 8, Windows Phone to fail miserably.  His job isn't to run the company: his job is to run it into the ground.  It takes a long time to kill a company that generates this much profit but I believe in Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates does too.  Sooner or later he'll "get 'er done."

      The survival of the Microsoft monster is a blight on Bill Gates' charitable legacy.  It must be killed for us to properly appreciate his achievement as the greatest giver of all time.  He created this monster to build his wealth for giving, but it must be killed after it has so provided.  If it isn't, the serfs who labor for this beast will curse his name until the day they die and their number will grow to include all mankind.  That would take the benefit out of the giving, and then some.

      Bill Gates is a bright guy and I think he chose the right Beowulf to slay his Grendel.  But it is a pernicious beast and isn't going to lie down easily.  Steve Ballmer can mount its neck and guide it to ineffectiveness, but there are limits to what he can do.  Somebody else will have to strike the killing blow, and a great many must help.

  2. ilev says:

    If all those millions of applications won't support touch by the end of the year, on Intel and ARM cpus, Windows 8 will fail.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I expect Windows 8 to be pants. And I foresee Windows 9 to be a return to traditional operating systems.

  4. Jimmy Powers says:

    You're leaving out the fact that 3 million people have downloaded the developer preview which was released nearly 5 months ago; the same amount that downloaded the Windows 7 beta! That gives the marketplace a year of development and 7 months of user testing. Not to mention MS has been effectively using the DP as a beta and proof of that are UI and feature changes to Start, Search, Explorer and more based on user feedback.
     
    The whole process and product is much different this time around so not only is your timeline an inaccurate comparison for 7 & 8 by leaving out the Developer Preview, it's irrelevant.

  5. ToeKnee says:

    Windows 8 will ship this year.  The title is using logic on Vista horrible history and really the old Microsoft.  From Windows 7, Phone 7, Kinects, Xbox Updates, the massive internal MS changes - MS understand what it takes now.  I have Apple and Google to thank for this.  But we just seeing Microsoft 2.0.  Windows 8 is the future, if I can get a tablet with an i7, and docking station for home and work (to support a 22 inch monitor) why would a laptop or desktop every be needed (...other than my hard core game playing).

    • PC_Tool says:

      "logic on Vista horrible history"

      Sadly, that would mean the author was basing his article on ignorance.

      Vista was in dev for ~ 3 years, just like every other Windows OS.  The only reason we didn't see it 3 years after XP was becuase the release intended for ~3 years after XP was scrapped about 3 years into development when they decided to completely start over.

      ...worst decision ever, in retrospect.  ;)

      • ToeKnee says:

        I said Vista's Horrible History, more in general anything Vista (right or wrong).  So trying to compare Widows 8 to Vista is just not fair. 95/98 was a hit, XP a hit, Windows 7 a hit, I am sure Windows 8 will have no problem.

      • PC_Tool says:

        Ah. Seemed to me you were referring to the "delay" and referencing the "long development time" generally associated with Vista. My apologies if that was a mistaken assumption.

        (Joe himself seemed to be trying to draw that exact comparison in his last sentence)

    • woe says:

       " if I can get a tablet with an i7"

      I hope Microsoft or any of its hardware partners laughs at that statement. 

      Joe Consumer or Joe business guy does not want any kind of tablet that has an i7 in it.  It would be a hot, battery sucking beast that NO ONE would buy....except maybe you.

      Windows 8 tablets need to be basically an iPad 2 type device with a KILLER ecosystem to go with it to even be considered.  Add support to manage it like a Windows Laptop/Desktop (SCCM/SCOM/AD etc) and then you have a good starting point....provided it can ship this year.  Anything short of what I laid out.....will get Microsoft tablet sales that will rival HP and RIM.

      • ToeKnee says:

        LOL - was thinking i7 performance not the CPU with a big ass fan on it :)  Apple nailed the iPad 2 - I agree with your starting point.  I will be there.  I just ordered a HP Slate 2 today for fun - The public Win8 preview is coming soon.  

  6. John says:

    Don't care about Windows 8, not interested at all.
    Just want to know when is Windows 7 SP2 is going to be released.

    • ToeKnee says:

      Good for you - You do know, Windows 8 is really 2 OSes - Metro and Desktop.  When you click on the Desktop you are really in Windows 7 (Simplifying this to make a point).  Seriously, don't use the metro or touch side, just boot to the desktop.  What you should be saying, I just got Windows 7, they should give me Windows 8 for free :)

      • PC_Tool says:

        "Windows 8 is really 2 OSes - Metro and Desktop"

        You do know that you are confusing Operating Environment with Operating System, don't you?

        (...or was that intentional to "simplify" it?)

      • ToeKnee says:

        PC_Tool - Totally simplifying it. As that is how I would have to explain it to my Mom :)  New (Metro), Old (Desktop) - each having their reasons to be on the same hardware.  But again, not forced to use either side.

  7. modicr says:

    This "beta" of Windows 8 will be of near RTM quality

    • PC_Tool says:

      ...any future Windows build will be "release ready".  This started with Win7 development when they changed the process that resulted in the horrendous mistake that was the Vista release.

  8. Douglas says:

    I know bashing Microsoft and Windows is the cool thing to do right now, but I'm pretty excited to see what 8 is like. I'm not sure I'll buy it right away, since I happen to dig 7 and am pretty happy with it. But I'd rather hope for good things and then complain when I'm disappointed than start get myself worked up before I've tried it. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    Theres a lot of under the hood changes to make the win8 desktop valuable...worthy of another $100-$200...thats a different question but if you do have a touch enabled pc, the metro interface has a lot to offer.  Ive been using my win8 slate as my mobile pc/laptop replacement since the dp came out and apart from a couple of prebeta bugs, its been well worth it.  So the dp wasn't polished but it was promising and it seems that new features are being included at an impressive pace that a rtm in August seems entirely realistic.  Im onboard for the beta and Im definitely onboard for the release.

  10. PC_Tool says:

    "Worst case: Windows Vista-like delay."

    If they scrapped the entire branch from Win7 on *now*.

    ...otherwise, not likely.  You are aware why "Vista took so long", right? 

  11. Froderik says:

    "Expect Windows 8 in October, or not at all this year"

    Sinofsky's aim is to shorten the Windows Beta cycle to something like the Office Beta cycle!

    Expect Win7 SP8 Metro Edition or Vista SP9 for Tablets :)

  12. woe says:

    Comparing where Windows 8 is to where Windows 7 was at this time is a joke. 

    Windows 7 was giant Vista hotfix rollup and a minor GUI tweak.....which worked.  7 was what Vista should have been if Microsoft did not have all of its internal problems.

    Windows 8 is take 7 as the foundation and add on some major changes, like the whole Metro, WinRT world.  Not only that but the Metro start page is a drastic change in the common workflow for everyone that has ever used Windows, so getting right, testing it etc is a major deal.  The Vista to 7 workflow was the same, the GUI was 99% the same, that whole part of the project is nothing compared to the 7 to 8 transition.

  13. woe says:

    "Sure, massive enterprise adoption is inevitable, but not right away."

    Highly doubtful it will ever be huge.  Most companies, like mine, upgrade Windows when its NOT supported or soon not to be from Microsoft.  Windows 7 will do us fine until 9 comes out and 7 is getting close to end of life.

    For a corporation to go to 8 that is on 7 now, any smart corporation, there would have to such a huge financial advantage, to make it worth it.....like reducing IT staff by 50%.  If anything Windows 8 will require more staff at first because of the massive GUI changes.

    • ToeKnee says:

      I agree - however as Betanews has pointed out, Apple iPads are invading corporate America.  However that just shows a need for a stable, polished tablet device.  Windows 8 on a table will fill this void.  Currently it is the only way I see Windows 8 making into our PC environment.  Unless they offer docking stations to support large monitors, than it will be come our new laptop.  If and when it comes on desktops, it will be setup to boot directly to the desktop mode (not metro).  Our IT Staff was already reduced 50% two years ago (sigh..)

      • woe says:

        I can see corporations bringing in Windows 8 tablets and keeping Windows 7 on the desktop/laptop...and then going to 9 across the board in the future.  Especially since there are probably 10-20x less tablets of any kind in the environment.

        A Windows 8 tablet, should be MUCH easier than an iPad to manage in a Windows environment.....provided Microsoft enables all of this through their product stack....which they should.

  14. ToeKnee says:

    Wilcox - Your second to last paragraph makes up or the rest of the article :)  I too have confidence in Sinofsky and his team - it simply has to come out by October, as we all know 15 million ipads, 3 million Kindle Fires, Microsoft is still a year late on what the market wants/wanted. (understanding iPads and Fires are different targets).

  15. Anonymous says:

    Sinofsky is good and it looks like they're going to skip a beta cycle this time to get this thing out the door.  Maybe August-September if there's no showstopper and there shouldn't be this late in the game.

    Whether it's good or accepted is a whole other question.  I'm thinking "no".

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