Launch of outlook.com and preview of Office 2013 are some of key initiatives ahead of the October launch of Windows 8

Microsoft seems to have set in motion a series of launches and previews ahead of the launch of its next generation operating system, Windows 8, scheduled for October 26.

Earlier this week, the company announced a modern reboot to its e-mail service with www.outlook.com, effectively shutting down the once popular, Sabeer Bhatia-invented web mail service www.hotmail.com.

In recent weeks, it has also opened up consumer previews to its upcoming Office 2013 suite, which has the look and feel of the Windows 8 user-interface.

In a post dated August 1 on its official blog, www.windowsteamblog.com, Microsoft noted that it released the Windows 8 operating system (release version) to OEM and manufacturing partners.

That effectively means that the devices featuring Windows 8 should be getting prepared on the assembly lines very soon.

In the post, Steven Sinofsky, president of Windows and Windows Live Division of Microsoft, noted that more than 16 million PCs had participated in various consumer preview initiatives of the company over the Windows 8 launch.

Nearly seven million PCs had installed the operating system release preview launched two months ago.

“The previews of Windows 8 (Developer, Consumer, Release) have been the most widely and deeply used test releases of any product we have ever done,” he noted.

Elaborate feedback

There is a lot riding on Windows 8 for Microsoft as is evident from the very elaborate initiatives taken by it. Also the stakes are higher than ever before, as the company, despite its very strong presence in the installed desktop space and in the enterprise segment, has been chasing the likes of Apple and Google in other segments. The biggest challenge is in the mobile devices segment where rapid growth of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android threatens to make it a two-horse race.

Much of Microsoft’s focus in its recent initiatives seems to be on integrating all devices under one operating ecosystem. Office 2013, for example, promises to offer a singular suite of applications that will be platform-agnostic.

There has been some praise at reputed technology forums over the design and user interface of Microsoft’s latest offerings, including its new mailing service and office suite.

Also, there have been some practical advantages the new offerings seem to give over cloud storage.

However, there is also some criticism that with Windows 8, Microsoft seems to be moving towards a ‘closed system’ approach to business in a way similar to how Apple does things. In the past, Microsoft has criticised Apple’s “walled-garden” style of business, but is now facing similar flak from some of its partners.

Valve’s criticism

One of the rants about Windows 8 that went viral in recent weeks came from game publisher Valve, which has brought out several of its popular PC games on the Windows platform. The company sees the move to have a central Windows App store to sell software directly to consumers as a move that will step on the toes of its own partners.

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