Microsoft has ended all speculation surrounding the launch date of its next-generation operating system after Steven Sinofsky announced during the company's annual sales meeting yesterday that customers will be able to get a copy on Friday October 26, on a new computer or as an upgrade.

The announcement by Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, follows an earlier promise at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto earlier this month that Windows 8 would arrive sometime in October.  The date was later confirmed in a post by Brandon LeBlanc on the firm's official Windows Blog

There was no word on the exact date we can expect Microsoft's Surface tablets however, but given that consumers will be able to get the software individually or on a new PC the same day, it's entirely possible the tablet will be available immediately on the launch date. More details will no doubt follow as the date nears.

Earlier this month the OS-maker said those using the release preview version of Windows 8 will be able to upgrade to the final release for $39.99 using the upgrade tool. Those that purchase a new computer between June 2 2012 and January 31 2013 will also be eligible to upgrade to Windows 8 Professional for just $14.99.

While consumers have been treated to two previews of Windows 8 to date, it is likely Microsoft will leave some of the new features for the upcoming launch, and right now it's hard to say whether further tweaks will be made to the highly controversial Metro UI before it reaches RTM.

Those yet to experience Windows 8 can do so by checking out the Release Preview version, and further details on setting it up using USB drives, and dual-booting options. For those wishing to advance their skills further with the new OS, our guide packed full of tricks, tips and shortcuts is worth checking out.