30 Days until Windows 8: What can we expect?

30 days. Yes, after about three years of waiting, Microsoft is now just one month away from launching Windows 8. It is, without a doubt, the company's biggest gamble in terms of its Windows franchise. Microsoft made the decision to keep the traditional desktop while also offering the new and colorful "Metro" touch screen-themed UI (Yes, we know; Microsoft has officially gotten rid of the Metro brand, but its just easier for us to label it as such.)

Microsoft is not launching one product on October 26th; it's launching three of them. Windows 8 is coming out for desktop, laptop and tablet PCs that will run on processors made by Intel and AMD. It's also coming out with Windows RT, which will run on ARM-designed chips made by companies like NVIDIA and Qualcomm. It will also only be able to run programs made just for Windows RT; no older programs made for older versions of Windows can run on Windows RT.

Finally, Microsoft is also launching its own PC product for the first time on the same Windows 8 ship date; the Windows RT version of Surface. It's a move that few expected from Microsoft but its one that could showcase how much the company is truly committed to the Metro user interface.

So, with 30 days to go, what can we expect to hear from Microsoft before the launch date?

More pricing details for Windows 8: Microsoft has already announced that people who want to upgrade their older Windows XP, Vista or 7 PCs can do so via a download for $39.99 until January 31, 2013. People who buy a new Windows 7 PC from now until January 31 can get that same upgrade for $14.99. However, Microsoft has still not officially revealed pricing for a full version of Windows 8.

A recent report claims, via unnamed sources, that people who want to build their own PC can buy the full version of Windows 8, under the Personal Use License for System Builder plan, starting at just under $100. Microsoft has yet to confirm this, but we should get the full skinny on this topic just before the launch date or perhaps soon afterward.

Microsoft has already said it won't be selling separate versions of Windows RT; they will only be available bundled with a Windows RT device.

Pricing for the Windows RT version of the Surface: Microsoft has been cagy about how much the Windows RT version of its own homegrown tablet will be like. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently said it would have a price range of between $300 and $800. That's quite a lot of wiggle room for Microsoft to give itself for pricing what may be its "make or break" product. We suspect that the company will hold some kind of Surface press event just before October 26th where the final pricing for the tablet will be revealed.

Just a reminder: Microsoft also has plans to launch a Windows 8 Pro version of the Surface, but it won't be released until a few months after the Windows RT version comes out.

More details on Microsoft Store openings: The company has been trying to open new retail stores across the US and Canada in the past few years, and with the launch of Windows 8, Windows RT and Surface, Microsoft will continue that trend. In addition to opening a number of permanent Microsoft Store locations, the company will also open up over 30 temporary stores later this fall that will close after the end of the holiday shopping season. We should get more details about Microsoft's retail store plans before the Windows 8 launch.

More information on Windows 8 apps: Since Windows 8 went into its RTM mode in August, the company has been adding more and more apps made especially for the "Metro" UI to its Windows Store feature. One unofficial source says that Microsoft now has over 2,000 of those apps available in the Windows Store to download. Microsoft, as well as app software developers, will be revealing more information about their Windows 8/RT Metro apps in the next 30 days. Will we see an official Facebook or Twitter app in the store, among others? Stay tuned.

More details and pricing for Windows 8/RT PCs: Companies like HP, Dell, Acer, Asus, Lenovo and others have been revealing what hardware they will offer consumers to buy for the launch of Windows 8 for the past few weeks. However, pricing details for many of those products, especially those that use the "Metro" UI for their touch screens, are harder to come by. We will likely get those specific details just before October 26th. We may also get some additional hardware surprises from PC OEMs.

Xbox Music details: Along with the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is also dumping its Zune Music service in favor of a new online service to tie it into its Xbox brand. Will this just be a rebranding, or will Microsoft also be adding new features to its music-themed online service? We suspect those details will becoming alongside more information on the Surface tablet.

More viral marketing efforts: Microsoft has been known to go a little nuts with ARG (Alternate Reality Game) efforts in the past. They have already started a viral campaign for the Surface tablet. Mysterious street art images have been placed on buildings in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. We expect to see even more of these art images to pop up in other parts of the US ahead of October 26th. It's also possible that Microsoft will have something else in store for us for Windows 8 itself.

Something totally unexpected? Hey, it could happen. No one thought that Microsoft would launch a PC hardware product until Surface was first announced. It's possible that the company has something else up its sleeve in Redmond that we know nothing about at this stage.

Images via Microsoft, Lenovo and schrags08

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