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Microsoft: Windows 8.1 and R2 Server Products Coming October

Microsoft has made it official: The next wave of Windows client and datacenter products will all be released on Oct. 18.

On that day, Windows 8.1 will become available as a free update for current Windows 8 users via the Windows Store, and PC makers will launch new devices running the updated OS. Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 will also be available to existing customers as a download, while new customers can buy the release on Nov. 1. An upgraded Windows Intune is also slated for release on Oct. 18.

Microsoft did not clarify when OEMs would be able to access the Windows 8.1 bits. At last month's Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft said it will deliver Windows 8.1 to its OEM partners in late August.

"We haven't announced RTM today," Microsoft senior marketing communications manager Brandon LeBlanc said in a blog post Wednesday. "This announcement is just for general availability. We also haven't made any new announcements for TechNet subscribers."

There also was no mention of a new Surface device being launched on Oct. 18, though commenters on LeBlanc's blog were already speculating about one. It's possible Microsoft will hold off on announcing a new Surface to avoid upstaging its already aggravated OEM partners.

The fact that Microsoft is launching its client and server upgrades together underscores the so-called seamlessness the company has emphasized since the June TechEd conferences in New Orleans and Madrid. Brad Anderson, the Microsoft corporate vice president who outlined the new features in Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 in the opening keynotes at TechEd, announced their release dates in a blog post Wednesday. The two server products, along with the Windows Intune update, are part of Microsoft's release strategy, he indicated.

It's not surprising that Microsoft is looking to tie the launches of the client and server OSes together, given Microsoft's emphasis on how IT can provide more seamless management of user-owned Windows PCs and tablets.

One noteworthy change in the Windows Server 2012 R2 upgrade is improvements to Hyper-V and easier integration with public cloud services, including Windows Azure. To enhance Windows Server, Microsoft is launching the Windows Azure Pack, though it wasn't immediately clear if that will be included in the Oct. 18 launch.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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