Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) needs to get a move on.

The software giant has a lot riding on the next major iteration of its flagship operating system, Windows 8, most notably its tablet prospects. Windows 8 represents a lot of Microsoft's mobile strategy, as future versions of Windows Phone will probably take many cues and technical features from its tablet- and PC-bound brethren.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, the company is scheduled to put the finishing touches on Windows 8 by summer, with a planned debut in October. Mr. Softy is looking for an aggressive global rollout with devices running both Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) and ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH) chips, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Microsoft hasn't made any official announcements on Windows 8's release schedule, but it was already widely expected by year's end. Bloomberg cites the October timing to a standardly vague "people with knowledge of the schedule." It's particularly credible since Microsoft needs to get its tablet strategy off the ground.

If Microsoft gets hit with delays or holdups, it's going to miss the important holiday season, and an early 2013 release would put it almost head-to-head with when Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is likely to unveil the fourth-generation iPad -- an unenviable position for any iPad rival.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is just now putting some serious effort into its tablet game, too, with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich being the first fleshed-out version of the OS that's fit for tablets. Android chief Andy Rubin has already said that Big G will "double down" on tablets this year, and the search kingpin might even be preparing to release a Nexus Tablet.

Android 5.0 Jelly Bean will also probably see a fall release to compete with Windows 8. I still happen to think Windows 8 will eat Android's tablet lunch, since Android's overall tablet performance has been mostly underwhelming thus far.

As usual, Microsoft is late to the mobile party. Windows 8 has a lot of lost time to make up.

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