Microsoft on August 1 announced Windows 8 has reached Release to Manufacturing (RTM), the latest milestone in the launch of the Windows 8 operating system. Industry partners are now readying products in time for the Windows 8 worldwide launch on 26 October, 2012.
The RTM milestone is an important part in the Windows lifecycle, as it marks the completion of code development that has been driven by customer and developer feedback since preview versions became available starting last September.
Microsoft has already announced that customers running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 will qualify to download an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $39.99.
Select audiences, including developers, IT professionals and partners will have early access to final RTM code beginning later this month.
On August 15th, developers building new apps for Windows 8 will be able to download the final version of Windows 8 via an MSDN subscription, and can visit the Windows Dev Center to get access to the final build of Visual Studio 2012. The same day IT professionals testing Windows 8 in organisations will be able to access the final version of Windows 8 through a TechNet subscription.
On August 16th customers with existing Microsoft Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download Windows 8 Enterprise edition through the Volume License Service Center (VLSC), allowing them to test, pilot and begin adopting Windows 8 Enterprise within the organization.Microsoft Partner Network members will have access to Windows 8 the same day.
The final steps before the final release will be on August 20th when Microsoft Action Pack Providers (MAPS) receive access to Windows 8 and on September 1st Volume License customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 8 through Microsoft Volume License Resellers (MVLR).
Developers can visit the Windows Dev Center to get access to all the tools and resources they need to design, build, and sell apps in the Windows Store. While all apps during the preview phases were free, the RTM developers can begin charging for apps, so those with access to RTM bits will begin to see paid apps appear in the Windows Store.
Windows 8 will be generally available to customers on 26 October.