Windows 8 and Surface Windows RT Available to Consumer Buyers

Microsoft's new Windows 8 client operating system hit general availability today, along with the Windows RT version of the Surface tablet.

Windows 8 software upgrades and hardware products are now available at various retail outlets worldwide. The OS is available in two versions, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. The Pro version is more complete and has some capabilities that home users might not value, such as domain joining, encryption (BitLocker and encrypting file system), Group Policy controls, Remote Desktop as a host, booting from virtual hard disks and desktop virtualization via Hyper-V. A comparison of features can be found in this Microsoft blog.

Windows 8 was earlier released in August to Microsoft's volume licensing customers, as well as its TechNet and MSDN subscribers. However, now consumers can get hold of Microsoft's newest OS, which notably departs from past Windows releases based on its design. Windows 8 has a colorful tile-based user interface that supports touch, as well as keyboard-and-mouse interactions. The OS is reminiscent of the touch-based interface that's seen on Microsoft Windows Phone devices.

Sales of Windows 8 systems began after midnight on Thursday at retail and online stores. Consumers can expect to see a variety of models, including desktops, laptops, tablets and all-in-one computers. Availability by device maker will vary, but notable original equipment manufacturers that are building Windows 8 products include Acer, ASUS, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba. Some of the manufacturers will roll out products running Windows RT, which is Microsoft's Windows 8 version for ARM-based devices. Microsoft has indicated that "over 1,000 Windows 8 certified devices" will be on the market today.

Today also marks the retail availability date for the ARM-based Microsoft Surface running Windows RT, with prices ranging from $499 to $699. The ARM architecture is widely used in mobile smartphones and is notable for enabling extended battery durations compared with traditional laptops. The new Surface devices are available at "27 retail and 34 holiday stores in the U.S. and Canada," according to Microsoft's announcement, with a list available here. Microsoft is also selling Surface in China and Hong in stores, as well as online in "Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States."

Microsoft also plans to release an x86/x64-based Surface Pro running Windows 8 in late January. These Surface Pro devices will use system-on-chip processors from Intel and AMD. Microsoft, which took a new turn by designing its own hardware with Surface, describes the lightweight and thin Surface as "PC tablet" devices.

Microsoft is selling Windows 8 devices via this page. However, for Windows 8 consumer deals offered by local retailers, see the listings at this Microsoft blog post.

Windows 8 Upgrade Offers
Typically, consumers would get Windows 8 when buying new machines from retailers. However, Microsoft has a limited-time offer for consumers buying new Windows 7 machines. If the Windows 7 machine was bought between June 2, 2012 and Jan. 31, 2013, it can cost $14.99 to upgrade to the Windows 8 Pro edition, provided that the terms of the deal are met.

Those consumers with older Windows 7 machines that do not meet that June-to-January purchase criteria can still get a low-cost upgrade to Windows 8 Pro. Starting today, those Windows 7 users can pay $39.99 for the upgrade, which takes place online. However, if the purchaser wants to have a DVD of the Windows 8 Pro upgrade as a boxed copy, it is still possible to get that today from retail outlets, but it costs $69.99, according to the details of Microsoft's offer. These upgrade offers are only good through January, after which the retail upgrade price of Windows 8 Pro for consumers could bump up to about $200.

Those looking to buy a boxed copy of Windows RT will look in vain. Microsoft doesn't sell the Windows RT OS as a separate product. It's sold with a device.

Microsoft is offering its Windows 8 upgrade offers via this portal page.

Hardware Considerations
Microsoft has claimed that Windows 7-logo PCs will be capable of running Windows 8, but touch screens and the hardware needed to run desktop virtualization can be considerations for some consumers. For those consumers that want the greatest assurance on the hardware front, without having to know the messy details, purchasing a new Windows 8-logo PC would be the best approach, instead of trying to run Windows 8 on older machines.

Touch-screen hardware that was used for Windows 7 may work with Windows 8. However, Microsoft has previously recommended that touch screens running Windows 8 should support a minimum of five touch points. While it's possible to use a mouse and keyboard with Windows 8, most users likely will want to use a touch screen.

While consumers might not be thought of as desktop virtualization aficionados, hardware is a consideration for those who are. Windows 8 Pro ships with Hyper-V (the Windows 8 version doesn't have it), which allows users to run another OS in a virtual machine. This desktop virtualization capability requires the use of a 64-bit client machine with processors that have second level address translation (SLAT) capabilities and at least 4 GB of RAM, as described in this Microsoft blog. Moreover, if the user is running Windows 7 or another Windows version in a virtual machine atop Windows 8, then that Windows copy has to be licensed to that machine or user.

Another option for controlling Windows 8 comes through the use of trackpads on laptops. During a Microsoft launch event in New York City on Thursday, Michael Angiulo, corporate vice president for Windows planning, hardware and PC ecosystem, demonstrated that capability using a Windows 7 laptop. The same finger movements that control Windows 8 on a touch screen can also work on a trackpad, according to the demo. However, it wasn't clear if all older trackpads would work the same. A CNet article looking at the Windows 8 RTM version suggested that drivers are needed to make it work.

Update: according to a Microsoft spokesperson, the ability to use gestures on trackpads depends on whether that capability is supported by the computer maker.

"It's up to the OEMs to determine whether they will be installing track pads that support Windows 8 gestures. There are special track pads that have been designed for Windows 8 devices," the spokesperson noted.

An on-demand replay of Microsoft's launch event for Windows 8 in New York City can be accessed here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

comments powered by Disqus

Reader Comments:

Thu, Oct 17, 2013 Halladay The guy parked in the anbulamce space and the one in the fire lane aren't badasses, just pieces of shit. I hope they have heart attacks while their house burns down.

The guy parked in thehttp://a DOT space and the one in the fire lane aren't badasses, just pieces of shit. I hope they have heart attacks while their house burns down.

Mon, Sep 16, 2013 Taran cash back credit card 5 DOT

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 Kyanna ciprofloxacin vmm cheap generic cipro 8-[ car insurance in florida 9992 DOT vmm DOT 8-[ DOT 9992

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 Carlynda cheap car insurance >:-OO generic sildenafil viagra =] auto insurance quotes zfjx DOT >:-OO DOT =] DOT zfjx

Sun, Jan 27, 2013 Medford life insurance quotes 25919 auto insurance 0909 propecia 0159 DOT 25919 DOT 0909 DOT 0159

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 Teige life and health insurance snxge variable life insurance >:[ auto insurance fyqam DOT snxge DOT >:[ DOT fyqam

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 ahmed imame sahnone

oui chokran

Sat, Oct 27, 2012 ouch Scotland

After installing Windows 8. Better than the previews, but still unusable. From a developers viewpoint, I would not waste any time developing for this flawed platform.

Fri, Oct 26, 2012

i'd wait for the surface pro to utlize the full potential on it...i own a galaxy and a ipad 2 what i dislike about them is their are just toys not enough power to run productiviy things i can do at work doing IT mgmt The surface RT atm cant meet my criteria. I'd rather pick up a samsung slate running full win 8...

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 Brett S IT the world

But remember this tablet will sync with all existing networks which are mostly MS networks. Therefore most all corporate software will run onthis that does not run on apple and has not been proven on Droid. And printing haha no printing issues drivers are already there and so is a slim down MS Office no extra cost and no extra download.....and remember anyone late to the market like MS usually has a superior product as they have learned from others and come up with a winner....remember their (MS) main competitor is Apple - IPAD at 60% MS is set to take some share away now.... watch and see what sales do for the surface!

Fri, Oct 26, 2012

$499 for a tablet is WAY too much when i can get a Galaxy 10" tablet for $349.

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 Chris

Yawn ....

Add Your Comment Now:

Your Name:(optional)
Your Email:(optional)
Your Location:(optional)
Please type the letters/numbers you see above

Redmond Tech Watch

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.