Windows 8 will be released Oct. 26, Microsoft announced at its annual sales meeting Wednesday. Customers will be able to buy an upgrade for their current OS or simply purchase a new machine with the Windows 8 operating system installed.

Earlier in the month, Microsoft set a release date for sometime in October, but now it's official.

Windows 8 has been envisioned as a major overhaul of the operating system. The Windows Design Team says it's been reimagined from the chipset to the user experience. The operating system's new interface is based on Microsoft's Metro design language, as is Windows Phone.

Because of the overlap in design languages, Windows 8 will feature a Start screen based around a series of tiles, similar to Windows Phone. Each of the tiles will represent an application, which will open in full-screen when launched. When idle, the tiles can display pertinent information about the app.

To access the traditional desktop interface on the Metro system, simply click a tile on the Metro screen. The Start button will return users to the tile-based interface.

Other much-anticipated features in Windows 8 include the launch of Internet Explorer 10, an updated Windows Store and Xbox Live integration. The system will also support USB 3.0 and introduce a redesigned Task Manager.

For most Windows users, an upgrade to Windows 8 will cost only $40.

Microsoft is also planning a highly anticipated tablet that will also run on Windows 8. The new operating system plans to bring a more tablet-oriented experience to desktop computing.