Good news, bad news from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) about Windows 8 and its new Xbox game console.

Windows 8

Consumers waiting for Microsoft’s revamped version of its latest Windows operating system will be able to get the software beginning Oct. 17.

The release date for Windows 8.1 is nearly a year after the debut of Windows 8, a dramatic overhaul of the operating system that has been powering most personal computers for decades.

Microsoft unveiled its plans for Windows 8.1 three months ago, but hadn’t set a release date until Wednesday. At test version of Windows 8.1 that may still include some bugs has been available since late June.

Windows 8 represented Microsoft’s attempt to create an operating system that works well on tablet computers, as well as on laptop and desktop machines.

But the overhaul confused and frustrated many people, resulting in disappointing sales of devices running on Windows 8. One research firm, International Data Corp., has even blamed Windows 8 for deepening the slump in PC sales as more people rely on smartphones and tablets to connect to the Internet.

Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Wash., also absorbed a $900 million charge to its most recent quarterly earnings to account for its expected losses from a company-produced tablet, called Surface, which relies on a slimmed-down version of Windows 8.

Windows 8.1 is Microsoft’s attempt to make the operating system easier and more appealing to use. It will be available as a free update to owners of Windows 8 machines.

The first laptops and PCs featuring Windows 8.1 already installed are scheduled to go on sale Oct. 18.

Xbox Delays

Microsoft is delaying the release of its Xbox One console in eight countries, including Russia and the Netherlands, until 2014 in order to make sure it has enough supply for larger markets.

The company, which had planned to begin sales of the console in November in 21 countries, will now cut that to 13. It will push back the date for the Xbox One’s rollout in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia and the Netherlands.

“We understand this will be disappointing news for our fans in the impacted countries, and we are doing everything we can to bring Xbox One to you as soon as possible next year,” Microsoft said in a blog post on its website.

The delayed rollout is another issue for the Xbox One, which will sell for $499 and which has already seen Microsoft reversing itself on limits for reselling and trading games, as well as a requirement to connect the console to the Internet once a day. It will compete against Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 4, which will cost $399. Both consoles are crucial to the companies’ efforts to reach consumers in their living rooms.