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10/8/2012
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Windows 8 PCs On Sale, With A Catch

Popular online retailer offers Gateway and Acer systems running Microsoft's new OS, but buyers may be better off waiting for official launch.

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
TV and online retailer Home Shopping Network appears to be the first major outlet to start taking orders for PCs and laptops that carry Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system, which does not officially go on sale until Oct. 26.

There's a catch, however: Shoppers who order one of the machines won't get it until after the launch. InformationWeek's effort to order a Windows 8 system from HSN yielded a ship date of Oct. 30--four days after the OS and related hardware will be available to the general public.

HSN's pre-sale, however, does give consumers some idea of what to expect when Windows 8 does officially launch, considering that the network's PC offerings typically tend to be underpowered and overpriced compared to what's available directly from PC makers or from specialty retailers like Newegg.

[ Microsoft makes last-minute enhancements to search, email, and other apps before it releases Windows 8. Windows 8 Apps Get Pre-Launch Tweaks. ]

HSN is currently selling five Windows 8 systems: three from Gateway and two from Acer. A 23-inch Gateway all-in-one touchscreen computer is selling for a whopping $1,200, even though it features only Intel's Core i5 chip, not the higher-end Core i7. Another Gateway system running Core i3 is priced at $700. It can also be had for four "flex payments" of about $175 each.

HSN is also pitching a Windows 8 laptop from Acer for $999. It features a 15.6-inch touchscreen, Core i5 processor, and 8 GB of RAM.

Shoppers not wanting to wait until the end of the month to purchase a new computer can buy a Windows 7 PC or laptop now, and upgrade later to Windows 8 Pro for just $15 through a special offer from Microsoft. The offer is good for computers purchased from any authorized Microsoft or PC reseller.

Users with some technical savvy can download a trial version of Windows 8 from Microsoft's website. It's available now, but expires after the software formally ships, at which time users will need to upgrade to the commercial version.

Microsoft plans to introduce Windows 8 at a high-profile launch event in New York City. Three days later, on Oct. 29, it will unveil Windows Phone 8, the next version of its mobile operating system.

Both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 use Microsoft's new Live Tiles interface, which was designed with touchscreen devices in mind. It will also work with a keyboard and mouse on PCs and laptops.

Upgrading isn't the easy decision that Win 7 was. We take a close look at Server 2012, changes to mobility and security, and more in the new Here Comes Windows 8 issue of InformationWeek. Also in this issue: Why you should have the difficult conversations about the value of OS and PC upgrades before discussing Windows 8. (Free registration required.)

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