Ina Fried

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Microsoft Finalizes Code for Windows 8

Microsoft said on Wednesday that it has completed its work on the code for Windows 8.

The step, known in nerd-speak as “release to manufacturing,” means that computer makers now know what the final version of the operating system will look like and can start loading it onto computers. Microsoft previously said the software — and computers running it — will be made publicly available on Oct. 26.

That’s the same day that Microsoft plans to start selling its own tablet, known as Surface, which will compete with tablets from Redmond’s traditional computer-making partners.

Microsoft also said that, as of today, software developers can offer paid apps via the operating system’s new “Windows Store.” Until now, only free programs were allowed in the marketplace.

Windows 8 represents Microsoft’s biggest-ever overhaul to its flagship product. The new Windows works on both traditional PC chips as well as on the kinds of ARM processors used for cellphones (though that version is called Windows RT). Microsoft is also shaking up how programs are written and delivered.

While Windows 8 (at least for Intel and AMD chips) can run older Windows apps, it is optimized for a new kind of program, known as “Metro-style apps.” Those programs are written differently and also look different.

The goal is to have an operating system and programs as at home on a desktop or laptop as they are on a touchscreen-only tablet.

In addition to the general release in October, developers with a subscription to Microsoft’s MSDN service will be able to download the final version of Windows 8 on Aug. 15, as will corporate computer types with a TechNet subscription. Businesses with a volume license deal known as “Software Assurance” will have access to Windows 8 the following day.

In the meantime, the near-final “release preview” version is still available as a free download.

Microsoft first showed off the radical new look for Windows 8 at our D9 conference last year. An early developer preview was issued to software makers that fall, with a public beta, or “consumer preview” release, made available in February.

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