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Will Its Next Generation Of Products Save Microsoft?  What Investors Need To Know About Microsoft’s Big Month Ahead

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We still don't know exactly when Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) will release Windows 8 on retail shelves. Rumor has it that the desktop version will hit the streets on October 26, with the smartphone and tablet platform going public three days later. But that's just a dubious leak at this point.

That hasn't stopped Microsoft's hardware partners from announcing products based on the new software.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) pins its Windows 8 hopes on three ultra-slim notebook systems. All three Ultrabook models come with touchscreens, in keeping with Mr. Softy's focus on optimizing the new Windows for touch-based operation. One even features a detachable keyboard, and could be seen as more of a tablet than a laptop. To help the Envy series stand out from the crowd of Windows 8 systems, HP also includes high-end Beats Audio components in these systems.

But these aren't launch-day partner systems for Microsoft. Two of the HP models will reach stores "for the holidays," and the third misses Black Friday with a December launch date.

Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) also stepped up to the podium at this week's international electronics show in Berlin to announce three new Windows 8 systems. There's a 10-inch Windows tablet built around an ARM chip, an all-in-one system, whose defining feature is an ultra-high-definition screen, and a laptop-tablet hybrid with Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) inside. That's the general pattern for this week's announcements: Pure tablets will generally run on ARM, while keyboard-tethered hybrids reach for Intel processors, instead.

Unlike HP, Dell is aiming to have these systems for sale "when Windows 8 is available at the end of October."

And then there's Samsung. Still licking its wounds from a huge courtroom smackdown at the hands of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , the Korean company is betting big on Windows Phone 8.

The just-announced ATIV line includes both tablets and smartphones, just like Samsung's Android-based Galaxy brand. I'd expect a slew of laptops later on, but Sammy hasn't unveiled any of those, yet.

These are seriously high-end devices, but the company said nothing about launch dates or pricing. These products could prove very timely, as Samsung's Android gadgets are in danger of getting slapped with import bans. I'd expect them to launch on the soonish side, given Samsung's legal challenges. This makes the ATIV gadgets a good litmus test for Microsoft's mobile ambitions -- if the world's leading smartphone wrangler can't sell this platform with some serious marketing motivation at its back, then nobody will.

Windows 7 is getting long in the tooth, and Microsoft has never owned a serious mobile platform. The Windows 8 launch has the entire weight of Redmond on its shoulders. Read up on the unique challenges and opportunities in front of Microsoft in our brand new research service for this stock. Get started with an in-depth premium report on Microsoft; then, enjoy a full year of timely analysis updates.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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