19/07/2012 09:43 | By Matt Farrington-Smith, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Microsoft announces Windows 8 release date - 26 October 2012

The software giant has announced general availability of their next operating system.

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Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky has revealed the release date for Windows 8 at the company's annual sales meeting.

This means that come 26 October, Windows users running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99 (£25). The upgrade to Windows 8 Pro can be downloaded at windows.com from the day of release.

Once Windows 8 has been downloaded you can also copy the software to a DVD for safekeeping. If they wish, users can purchase a backup DVD separately for $15 (about £9.50) plus shipping and handling.

The Windows 8 upgrade offer will run until 31 January 2013, a fully-packaged DVD version of Windows 8 Pro will also be available for $69.99 (£45) throughout this time.

Take a look at the latest screenshots of the new operating system in our gallery above.

The Windows RT Surface tablet is expected to go on sale at the same time as Windows 8.

Microsoft's stunning Surface tablet

Microsoft's Surface tablet

Microsoft's Surface is a family of tablets that have been designed to run Windows 8. The Surface comes in two flavours, dubbed Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows 8 Pro.

Both tablets sport a 10.6-inch widescreen display, an innovative 'VaporMg' magnesium construction and built-in kickstand. The Windows RT model is powered by an ARM processor (the same kind found in many mobile devices) and measures just 9.3mm thick.

Either model can be equipped with one of two magnetic covers, both of which feature built-in keyboards and trackpads. The 3mm-thick Touch Cover uses multi-touch technology to give an ultra thin profile, while the thicker Type Cover has physical keys and clickable trackpad buttons.

The Windows RT model is expected to go on sale at the same time as Windows 8.

Take a look at some of the other Windows 8 tablets that will be vying for your affections come October.

Download Windows 8 Release Preview

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