Microsoft will begin selling Windows 8 on Friday, October 26.
New PCs equipped with the operating system will go on sale the same day, Microsoft spokesman Brandon LeBlanc said.
Shortly before LeBlanc revealed the news, Stephen Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, announced the date at Microsoft's Global eXchange (MGX), an annual internal mass meeting of company executives, salespeople and product managers.
MGX is closed to the public.
The date wasn't a huge surprise: Windows 7 launched on October 22, 2009, the second-to-last Thursday of that month. Several media outlets had used the Windows 7 date to peg the likely launch of Windows 8 to Thursday, October 25, 2012.
Last week, Microsoft said it would debut Windows 8 in "late October," and that the OS would reach the RTM, or "release to manufacturing," milestone in early August. RTM marks the stage at which Microsoft certifies the software as ready to send to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) - the HPs, Dells and Lenovos of the world - so that they can start installing it on new systems.
The October 26 date is also significant to users now running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, as it marks the debut of the $39.99 upgrade to Windows 8. The price is a dramatic discount from other Windows upgrade. All users who upgrade will receive Windows 8 Pro, the more advanced of the two retail editions.
Microsoft has also tied the launch of its Windows RT operating system, and its Surface tablet, to the debut of Windows 8. It does have some wiggle room, however, for the tablet, because it has said that the device would go on sale around the time of Windows 8's release.
Some facts are still up in the air, most notably the pricing of the Surface tablet powered by Windows RT, whether other OEMs will also launch tablets at the same time, and the price of Windows 8 in a non-upgrade edition, called System Builder. That version will be required for people who assemble their own computers or for some Mac owners who want to run the new OS on their machines.