Office 2013 RTMs, Zune lives, and apps update as Windows 8 launch approaches

windows-8-logo_thumb News We’re counting down the days until both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 launch in a series of launch events, beginning in Shanghai on October 23rd with the first of a number of Windows 8 launch events, highlighted by the US launch of Windows 8 on October 25th and the first opportunity to purchase Microsoft Surface RT tablets later that night (at midnight on October 26th, actually).  Our friend Chris Poirier will be in New York helping us to cover the Windows 8 launch, and then we’ll head down to  a still-secret location in San Francisco to attend the Windows Phone 8 launch on Monday October 29th.  Then we’ll head right back to Seattle (well, Redmond, really) for Build, beginning the next day, October 30th, and running through November 2nd.

It’s going to be a whirlwind, and Microsoft is gearing up for what could well be it’s biggest week ever.  In somewhat of a surprise, Microsoft turned up the heat by releasing Office 2013 to manufacturing (RTM) today.  Office is expected to hitTechNet and MSDN, and be available to Volume Licensing customers in mid-November, and if you buy Office 2010 anytime after October 19th, you’ll get an upgrade to 2013 when it comes out for free. In addition, Office 365 will be updated in November, too.

In the meantime, Microsoft continues to filter out newly updated “built in” Windows 8 apps (Finance, Travel, and Weather have been updated, along with the first wave we wrote about the other day).  Still to come are updated apps for Music, Video, and Games, and in anticipation of a new music streaming service coming in the form of Xbox Music, Microsoft has been turning on Zune Music Pass access to a number of new countries in the past day or so.  While it may seem a bit crazy to push the Zune brand at this late date, getting Zune Pass up and running in new markets without tipping their hand about the new Xbox Music service does make at least some sense.  So far we’ve heard about Zune Pass coming to Germany, Brazil, Austria, and New Zealand.  Are you getting Zune Pass for the first time in your locale?