Microsoft confirms Windows 8.1 RTM; no early access to final bits

Microsoft confirms Windows 8.1 RTM; no early access to final bits

Summary: Microsoft is acknowledging Windows 8.1 has been released to manufacturing and that no one other than OEMs will get access to the RTM bits until October 18.


Microsoft announced on August 27 that Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 have been released to manufacturing (RTM'd) and are now being delivered to its OEM partners.


Company officials also confirmed, as I blogged earlier this month, that there will be no early access to the Windows 8.1 RTM bits by subscribers to MSDN, TechNet and its volume-license customers. They will have to wait for Windows 8.1's launch, October 18, to get the gold code.

Put down the pitchforks -- at least for a minute -- and consider this:

Point 1: Yes, it's true: This is not how Microsoft has rolled out the final Windows bits in the past. With previous Windows releases -- even Windows 8 -- Microsoft RTM'd the bits, handed them off to OEMs, and made them available to MSDN/TechNet and volume licensees a couple weeks later. These groups got the gold bits a month or more before Microsoft "launched" the new release and made it available at retail. Starting with Windows 8.1, this changes and everyone gets the gold bits at the same time.

Point 2: RTM doesn't mean what it used to. Microsoft technically RTM'd Windows 8.1 on Friday, August 23 (though today's blog post makes no mention of this fact). That was the day that the Windows team, internally, decided that Windows 8.1 was good enough to be declared done enough to send to OEMs. Today's announcement marks the next phase of RTM: Microsoft is starting to release the Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 bits to its OEMs. (We need a new word to replace "RTM," in my opinion. But for now, we are stuck with RTM.)

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Point 3: Microsoft doesn't "make" Windows like it used to. Instead of spending 2.5 to 3 years planning, developing and testing a new Windows build, Microsoft did all that in 10 months this time around. Consequently, the company will be patching and updating Windows 8.1 and all the bundled apps that come with it (Mail, Calendar, the core Office apps, the Bing consumer apps, IE 11) right up until the launch. Microsoft will push updates to the whole shebang just before customers can get their hands on the final bits.

Point 4: Because of Point 3, things are different for developers, too. At Build this year, Microsoft told developers who wanted to build apps for Windows 8.1 to use the Visual Studio 2013 preview and the Windows 8.1 consumer preview to update their apps to take advantage of the new features in Windows 8.1. Officials detailed the application programming interface (API) changes that Windows 8.1 will bring. And they also noted that all existing Windows Store/Metro-Style apps that run on Windows 8 will run on Windows 8.1.

Point 5: The decision to withhold the RTM bits until launch probably does mean more folks will be downloading non-official RTM builds that have already started leaking ahead of October 18. Microsoft's advice is, unsurprisingly, users should wait for the "official" RTM bits and expect possible patches and updates to the consumer preview builds that the company released in late June in the interim.

In case you are wondering, we still don't know how much Windows 8.1 will cost. Windows 8.1 will be free for existing Windows 8 users, but Microsoft still hasn't said what it will cost at retail for those looking to upgrade from previous versions of Windows.

Developers and volume-license customers: Do you see delaying availability of the gold Windows 8.1 bits hurting you in any way (after reading the points above)? And remember: I am just the messenger here. 

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Software Development, Tablets, PCs


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • So much hype

    For a Service Pack. NT 6.2 SP1 doesn't sound that spectacular
    Troll Hunter J
    • Definitely not a service pack

      Service packs fix bugs. This is all about major new functionality.

      And bugs.
      x I'm tc
      • Well, no

        Service packs do fix bugs. They have also added functionality, always... look at all those applications, for example, that have a minimum requirement of XP SP3. It's been a blurry line for a decade. From Microsoft "Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is an important update that includes previously released security, performance, and stability updates for Windows 7. SP1 also includes new improvements to features and services in Windows 7, such as improved reliability when connecting to HDMI audio devices, printing using the XPS Viewer, and restoring previous folders in Windows Explorer after restarting." New Improvements, not just bug fixes.

        That's hopefully the case... I mean, Windows 7 SP1 was 262MB in size. Does anyone actually think that even Microsoft has 262MB worth of bugs?
        • Who gives a rats ass.

          This whole service pack versus release versus version number versus functionality is all a moot point. Whatever you want to call it, whatever Microsoft did in the past, whatever they'll do in the future doesn't change the fact that they, for whatever irrelevant reasons, are calling Windows 8.1 a new release. Regardless of what it's called won't change what it brings to the table. So why do we care what it's called? It is what it is.
          • Different expectations for SP vs. versions

            The reason we give a rat's ass about SP vs. versions, is that there are different expectations for each - and the new roll-out strategy looks somewhere in between.

            SPs are free, new versions are not; that's the first issue.

            A bigger issue is that SPs are expected to install cleanly over an existing installation, without breaking 3rd-party applications and drivers. Can we expect the same of Windows 8 point releases, or will we deteriorate to the Linux experience, where new free versions pop out once or twice a year but only "may" work when installed over-old, with similar "best to wipe and rebuild" advice as we hear for traditional new versions of Windows?
          • You Said Something Against LINUX?

            Here come the flags.
          • Again: Why do you care?

            Windows 8.1 is free to existing Windows 8 users. By that definition it's a Service Pack. But it is a stand alone release...making it a new OS version. And it fixes bugs. Making it a Service Pack. But it also adds new functionality...making it a new release and a Service Pack.

            With all that said: What does it matter what it's called? Does labeling it a Service Pack instead of a new release change anything as to what it is? It is what it is and Microsoft has decided to call it a new release. Whether it fits some ambiguous definition of being something else won't change what it is. So why do you care?
          • The name's the thing....

            I kinda consider it's like the OSR releases that were around in the Win95 days - a halfway release with new features but not a full version. The difference here is that back then the new bits got pushed to OEMs only, and now it's going out to everyone.

            What it comes down to is you're right, what we call it doesn't matter. This is MS fixing Sinofsky's screwups with Win8, and it was important that they get pushed out to end users as well as OEMs so they can start selling new systems for the holidays. That's a good thing, no matter what people choose to deflect and quibble over.
          • Different expectations for SP vs. versions reply

            look I have used and tested every version of Windows OS from 3.0 to the new 8.1 preview and there is no problem if you upgrade from a previous version of Windows to the next even if it's just a SP and not a major release version, example of this would be upgrading from say Windows 7 pro to Windows 8 pro there would be no lost programs or third party application issues also you could turn around and do an instant upgrade from the Windows 8 pro to the 8.1 preview still with no lost programs or driver issues, I know I have do this myself and with no issues. also if one wanted to upgrade say an XP machine to windows Vista then turn around and upgrade to 7 then upgrade to 8 then 8.1 so where is the issues I don't see them?
            Alex Beede
          • Two Sides To Every PC Screen

            I'm new to this service and just happened to read this article and killing some time I started reading comments. I just had to weigh inafter reading the preceding discussion. It seems you feel its senseless to quibble over what the 8.1 (whatever it is) is called since "it is what it is". I agree with you BUT what you don't seem to see is that to some people it means something and they have questions. Neither side of this "debate" is inherently wrong. It's a matter of information and clarification. What IS senseless and you don't seem to see that in yourself, is your need to tell other people what is senseless to them. The senseless part of this whole discussion is the time you took to tell them they are wrong. I had time to waste pointing this out to you, what reason do you have I wonder?
            Phyllis Wright
          • Windows 7 was Vista R2

            If you follow Server 2008 naming conventions. We know why they didn't call it that.
        • If it's not a Service Pack

          Then is Microsoft admitting Windows 8 is a mistake? If they're replacing an Entire OS, in less than a year, it's pretty evident they consider it a mistake. Windows 7 was the "bug fix" for vista. Also of note Microsoft has added "New functionality" (missing features) in Service Packs for the last few decades.
          Troll Hunter J
          • The 8.x

            Would seem to indicate they aren't merely releasing a full new os. They're adding to the original windows 8, much like osx has done over the past decade or so.
            Sam Wagner
      • SPs are not just bug fixes.

        You are incorrect. Service Packs do alter, add and remove functionality--they may have started as "patch rollups" but Windows Update obsoleted that as the primary purpose of SPs--before Windows XP and Server 2003 it was a simpler time with slower internet and produciton machine. Now there are monthly Patch Tuesdays and realtively sophisticated tools mean machines are kept much more up to date.

        Starting with Win XP when Windows Update was intrgrated with the OS from initial release EVERY service pack has added functionality. After installation you get UPGRADED apps like IE, messenger, ADDED functionality liek USB2 support and 48-bit LBA support, popup clockers in IE, DEP, Windows Firewall. These are NOT bug fixes--these are NEW FUNCTIONALITY.

        It is evident that MSFT has rerverted to the pre-NT days in terms of releases and it is quite likely there no service packs for Microsoft operating systems from Win 8 and Server 2012 onward, and I bet they will stop making SPs for SQL server and other software as well. Insteasd of SP1, we will get Win 8.1 and Server 2012R2. Instead of SP2 we will get 8.2 and server 2012R3. Basically SPs turn into "point releases".

        This isn't too big a deal if you can upgrade at least one point release at no cost but expect things to change in how MSFT does OS releases--which is the most antiquated of all major software companies. I suspect they are just moving towards a process more compatible with doing something like "software assurance for every microsoft user in the world"--subscription model and more frequient, less disruptive changes in each release, and want people to thing of their PCs like they do about their iPhones.
        Mark Hayden
    • Speaking of Troll

      Look in the mirror lately?
    • I guess you don't know what a service pack is then.

      A service pack by Microsoft's definition (not yours) contains only fixes to a product. Windows 8.1 contains a lot of enhancements.
      • Services Packs have been more than bug-fixes since Windows XP SP2 ...

        ... hit the streets with the first decent Windows firewall. BTW, we already know that Windows 8.1 will be "Windows NT 6.3 build 200" ( - as I recall).
        M Wagner
      • Problems

        Most of the "enhancements" are fixing things they broke between 7 & 8!

        They still aren't restoring the Start menu forcing us to go to 3rd party vendors.

        EVERY MAJOR improvement Microsoft has ever added to Windows since 3.1 have been things already done by others months before!
        • A nightmare wating to happen

          I see why the CEO of Microsoft is retiring as since 2000 when gates retired the company has lost value by 291 billion by coming out with windows 8 who was mistakenly about four years should of been put out as with out a touch screen WIN 8 truly sucks and when it came out you were stuck to a 17 inch TS monitor even now that the market is using 24-27 inch monitors we only got a 22inch TS so this mistake and rushing office 2013 with downgraded and missing feature from office 10 and only runs stable on win 8.
          also he dropped the ball on new market of smart phones and tablets. but that a different very fast growing market and one OS for all is just stupid compatibly is the key
          also one mistake a lot of people are making is the myth that smart phones and tablets are replacing Desktop PC which is not true as it was when people said laptops will replace desktops which did not happen either, as now most people own both
          Magnus Thunderson
          • all those FUDdy words..

            .. and 2 periods.

            congratulations, you've won the rant of the day trophy!
            Joe Brockhaus