Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 8 and Server 2012 have gone RTM and the final code is now in the hands of OEMs, ready to be tested and installed onto new systems.
MSDN and TechNet subscribers can download the final Windows 8 build on August 15, and Redmond's reseller network gets it a day later. So do those with Software Assurance contracts, who can download it via Microsoft's Volume License Service Center portal.
Subscribers to the Microsoft Action Pack Subscriptions (MAPS) scheme get their chance to kick the tires (but not pirate) the new build on August 20, and Redmond's biggest corporate buyers who aren't on a Software Assurance contract will have to wait until September 1 before they see code.
Those interested in Windows Server 2012 have a slightly easier time of it. Now that the RTM is sorted the code will go on general release at a launch event on September 4, where Microsoft plans to pitch the software's cloudy credentials.
While Microsoft says it has completed the final builds on Visual Studio 2012 and .NET 4.5, developers won't actually be able to download it until August 15. Redmond's also throwing in a free one-year developer account for Windows Store today for MSDN subscribers to test the water.
As soon as developers have the RTM builds they can start submitting applications for it to Redmond's store, which is open for Windows 8 apps as of Wednesday. The Windows Store has also added 54 new country markets and 24 new app certification languages – nearly tripling its portfolio. Microsoft's charging the customary 30 per cent, but dropping that to 20 per cent for apps that make more than $25,000 in their lifetimes.
"Today marks an important milestone in the Windows 8 project," said Windows supremo Steve Sinofsky, who's facing the most important product launch of his 23 years with Redmond.
"Together we are bringing to customers a new PC experience that readies Windows PCs for a new world of scenarios and experiences, while also preserving an industry-wide 25-year investment in Windows software."
Microsoft is advising IT managers to start evaluating the code on Windows 7 machines first and then roll out any deployment side by side to minimize disruption, and to leave upgrading XP and Vista systems on the to-do list.
Microsoft was only just touting the upgrade of XP and Vista systems as a $12bn business opportunity last month, but no doubt it wants the best possible introduction for the new operating system, particularly in light of concerns that the Metro interface has little use in the beige box sector. ®