You may already have heard of it by now: Microsoft has finally confirmed the hotly-anticipated Windows 8 operating system (OS) will be released in October this year. To be clear, Microsoft's flagship OS is scheduled for release to manufacturing (RTM) next month, with general availability expected in the latter part of October.
With a whole slew of laptops and desktops running on Windows 8 arriving in barely three months, should businesses hold back on buying of new desktop and laptop PCs? The answer really depends on your needs.
Let's start off by evaluating the two key considerations: ability to upgrade to Windows 8, and what you stand to lose if you buy a PC before the release of Windows 8.
Current upgrade options
Aware of reservations an impending upgrade will generate, Microsoft earlier announced users who purchase qualified Windows 7 machines from Jun. 2, 2012, until Jan. 31, 2013, will be eligible for Windows Upgrade Offer, a program for an upgrade to Windows 8 at just US$17.99. So while there is a certain amount of hassle in reinstalling Windows 8, users who have to buy a new PC in the next couple of months will not be very much worse off.
Moreover, Microsoft must also be feeling the heat from the tightened integration between iOS and Apple's OS X. Taking a leaf from its strongest competitor on the desktop, Microsoft last week stated previous versions of the Windows OS-- including Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7--will be eligible to upgrade to Windows 8 for US$39.99 (The SGD price has not been announced yet). And yes, Windows Media Center will be included as part of this upgrade cost.
Expect new hardware with Windows 8
The relative affordability of upgrading to Windows 8 means the bigger concern for users is not so much related to cost, but the selection of currently available hardware. Although manufacturers have released many new Ultrabooks and laptops following the release of third generation Ivy Bridge microprocessors from Intel, practically all of them still come without the Thunderbolt interface.
Moreover, computer makers are expected to come out with new touchscreen capable laptops in order to leverage the touch support that is built into Windows 8.
Even that is not so much a concern for a PC desktop, which is easily upgraded. However, I would advise users buying a laptop to consider carefully if they will want Thunderbolt and/or a touch screen in future, especially if they are power users who demand the fastest interfaces.
On the bright side, the impending release of Windows 8 will mean many hardware vendors will attempt to sell off their existing Windows 7 PCs in the months ahead. This is good news, as businesses that don't need the fastest and the latest can expect some price reductions or promotions in the next couple of months.
So will you go ahead and buy a Windows 7 PC today, or wait for the arrival of Windows 8?