Microsoft today announced that Windows 8 had been released to manufacturing. In a post on the Building 8 blog, Microsoft President Windows Steven Sinofsky, thanked millions of beta testers, noting that "The previews of Windows 8 (Developer, Consumer, Release) have been the most widely and deeply used test releases of any product we have ever done." Over 16 million PCs downloaded preview code, with 7 million running the Release Preview.
The final build is 9200, and will introduce changes to the desktop user interface with a flatter Metro look-and-feel to replace Windows 7's glassy Aero. The touch-centric Metro UI also gets improvements, including new touch gestures for supported trackpads.
Along with the RTM announcement, Microsoft released details of when developers and enterprises would get access to the final code.
- MSDN and Technet subscribers will get access on 15 August.
- IT professionals with Software Assurance will be able to download it from the Volume License Service Center from 16 August.
- Consultants and resellers with access to the Microsoft Action Pack will get download access on 20 August.
- Businesses without Software Asssurance will be able to purchase licenses from 1 September.
- Consumer general availability for upgrade downloads and new PC sales is on 26 October.
Windows Server 2012 also released to manufacturing today, and will be available on a similar timescale to Windows 8, as did the Windows developer tools. Developers will get access to Windows 8 development tools on 15 August, with the release of the Visual Studio 2012 to MSDN.
Metro Windows applications will be able to be sold through the Windows Store, which is now open for paid applications, and developers can register for full accounts, though uploads will need the release build of Windows 8. More details for developers will come when Microsoft holds its BUILD developer conference shortly after general availability.
Microsoft also gave guidance for organisations considering Windows 8 rollouts. Businesses currently deploying Windows 7 are advised to continue with their existing deployment programmes, as Windows 8 will run alongside Windows 7. For companies with XP or Vista, Microsoft is advising that businesses begin to plan Windows 8 deployments, with XP extended support due to end in April 2014 and Vista following in 2017.