This Friday is Halloween, but if you try to buy a PC with Windows 7 pre-loaded after that, you're going to get a rock instead of a treat. Microsoft will stop selling Windows 7 licenses to OEMs after this Friday and you will only be able to buy a machine with Windows 8.1.
It's mostly a formality at this point. A few months back I went PC shopping for my father and there wasn't a single Windows 7 PC to be had at retail, regardless of the store. From Fry's to Best Buy to Office Depot, it was a Windows 8 world, and I wasn't about to inflict that on my dad. I had to place an online order from Dell and get an older PC from the inventory.
The good news is that business/enterprise customers will still be able to order PCs "downgraded" to Windows 7 Professional. Microsoft has not set an end date for when it will cut off Windows 7 Professional to OEMs, but it will likely be a while.
This all fits in with typical Microsoft timing. Microsoft usually pulls OEM supply of an OS a year after it removes it from retail. Microsoft cut off the retail supply of Windows 7 in October of last year, although some retailers still have some remaining stock left.
If the analytics from Steam are any indicator, Windows 8 is slowly working its way into the American public, but mostly as a Windows XP replacement. Windows 7, both 32-bit and 64-bit, account for 59% of their user base. Windows 8 and 8.1 account for 28%, while XP has dwindled to 4%. Steam, an online games vendor (think iTunes for PC video games) is fully skewed toward gamers and consumers, obviously.
Over the course of this year, Windows 7 has held fairly steady on Steam, at about 60% of the PC operating systems. Windows XP has declined to almost nothing while Windows 8/8.1 has grown, which suggests that people are hanging on to their Windows 7 systems, but over time, XP has faded out and has been replaced by Windows 8/8.1.
It will be interesting to see how strong the Osborne Effect will be on Windows and PC sales over the next six months. The Windows 10 beta is earning kudos, although not as strong as the Windows 7 beta. With Windows 8 slandered out of the market, it will be interesting to see if people just hold off on purchases and wait for Windows 10. That would make for a pretty miserable Christmas for the OEMs.