It's Windows 8 Day. At a much-awaited event in New York City on Thursday, Microsoft launched its Windows 8 platform.

Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, told the gathering that the company "shunned the incremental" in creating Windows 8, an echo of CEO Steve Ballmer's past assertion that the company has "reimagined Windows."

Sinofksy said that there have already been about 16 million installations of the pre-release builds. Today's event also showcased the Windows store for apps, and Windows RT, the version designed for devices powered by ARM-based processors.

Microsoft said Windows 8 offered 13 percent better battery life, boot times below 10 seconds on new PCs, and backward compatibility with Windows 7 apps and hardware. "The heart of the Windows 7 desktop remains," Sinofsky told the audience, and he noted that more than 1,000 devices have already been certified for the new OS -- including the new Microsoft Surface tablet.

One Minute Past Midnight

The OS will be available for download in over 140 markets and 37 languages at 12:01AM local time, one minute into Oct. 26. Two versions, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, will be available for sale, and Windows 8 Enterprise will be offered for large organizations. RT will come pre-installed on new ARM devices.

The company is providing an upgrade to 8 Pro for users with XP, Vista or 7, for $39.99 through the end of January, and Windows 7 machines purchased between June of this year and the end of January can upgrade to 8 Pro for $14.99.

A key question is whether businesses will take advantage of the upgrade offers, or will buy new devices with the OS, including Windows 8 and RT tablets. Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC), said her company recently completed a survey to address that issue.

10 Percent 'Definite'

Based on 450 respondents, the ITIC survey found that only 10 percent of responding organizations have "definite plans" to upgrade to 8 in the first six to 12 months of its release. The key reason, DiDio noted, is "because of the success of Windows 7."

With only 10 percent definitely upgrading, the top reason for not committing to Windows 8 by the remaining 90 percent is that there's "no compelling business Relevant Products/Services reason" to do so, because Windows 7 is working well.

Of that 90 percent, 49 percent said no, they had no plans to upgrade, while the remaining 41 percent were "on the fence." Within the fence-sitters, DiDio said, 25 percent said they were "looking into it," while the rest said they were "unsure." DiDio said her survey also found concerns about compatibility with previous apps for Windows 7.

Additionally, a key finding was that 22 percent of the 90 percent, or slightly over 19 percent of the total, said they were "unhappy" with Windows 8's touch-focused interface formerly known as Metro. While a traditional Windows interface is still available in 8, the touch-oriented, tile-based one is a central characteristic of the new OS, and a variety of convertible tablets/laptops and all-in-one touchscreen desktops are being released to accommodate that focus.