Microsoft's big (rest of) January: A look ahead

Microsoft had one heck of a busy late October-early November of 2012, with the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT, the release of its RT version of the Surface tablet, the launch of the first Windows Phone 8 smartphones and the release of its biggest in-house Xbox 360 game ever, Halo 4.

As it turns out, it's looking like the end of January is also going to be very busy in terms of big Microsoft product launches and announcements. While it won't be quite as big as the fall of 2012, there is enough going on that we though it might be wise to go over what we could expect from the folks at Redmond from now until the end of the month.

Microsoft's latest financial results

We know for certain that Microsoft will announce their financial numbers for the fourth quarter of 2012 (Microsoft's second fiscal quarter of 2013) on Thursday, January 24th sometime after the close of the stock markets at 4 pm Eastern time; the company will also hold a conference call with financial analysts at 5:30 pm that same day.

Hopefully, Microsoft will finally give the public some real solid information about sales of its Windows RT version of the Surface tablet as part of its financial press release. The company has yet to give any specifics on unit sales of its debut PC hardware product, although some analysts have predicted one million Surface tablets were sold in the last quarter. We should also learn more about the state of the Windows and Windows Phone businesses as part of the financial disclosure.

The launch of the Surface Pro tablet

Microsoft has already said that the Windows 8 Pro version of its Surface tablet will be launched sometime before the end of January. The tablet will run on an Intel processor, have a higher display resolution than the current Surface RT tablet and will also come with a stylus pen.

Many people have bypassed buying the Surface RT tablet to wait for the Surface Pro, mainly because the tablet will be able to run legacy Windows programs which the Windows RT version of Surface cannot do. Microsoft will sell two versions of the tablet; a 64 GB version at $899, and an 128 GB version at $999.

The launch of Office 2013

Microsoft will finally launch the latest major version of its productivity software suite before the end of the month. While Microsoft has yet to give a formal launch date, all signs are pointing to January 29th as the actual launch date. Users can expect new version of programs such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel and more as part of the Office 2013 release.

The new versions will have user interfaces that have been optimized for touch-based displays. Microsoft will also launch a new version of its cloud-based software suite Office 365 around the same time as Office 2013.

The launch of Windows Phone 7.8

As with Office 2013, Microsoft has yet to give a formal launch date for Windows Phone 7.8. However, all signs are pointing to a release sometime before the end of the month. Designed to give most older Windows Phone 7.5 smartphones a bit of a boost, Windows Phone 7.8 will add features such as a new Start screen with resizable Live tiles, similar to the one that's a part of Windows Phone 8 among other enhancements and security features.

The end of cheap Windows 8 upgrades

All good things must come to an end. That includes Microsoft's ultra-cheap Windows 8 software upgrade offer. At the moment, you can purchase and download a Windows 8 upgrade for any PC that that has Windows XP, Vista or 7 installed for just $39.99, or if you bought a new Windows 7 PC between June 2nd and January 31, you can get that same Windows 8 upgrade for a mere $14.99. You can also buy a retail disc with the Windows 8 upgrade for just $69.99.

After January 31st, the budget friendly pricing will go away. The Windows 8 upgrade edition will be available online and at retail for $119.99 while the Windows 8 Pro upgrade edition will be priced at $199.99. The Windows 8 Pro Pack will cost $99.99 and the Windows 8 Media Center Pack, which is currently free, will cost $9.99 after the end of the month.

Images via Microsoft

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