Microsoft's Windows 8.1: When will users get the final bits?

Microsoft's Windows 8.1: When will users get the final bits?

Summary: Even though Windows 8.1 is still looking like it will be released to manufacturing in August, users may have to wait a couple more months to get the final version.


Microsoft is closing in on its publicly stated target of the end of August for releasing to manufacturing Windows 8.1.


But many of those waiting for the new release are less interested in the RTM date than the date when they'll be able to grab the final bits. And Microsoft officials still have said nothing about when that will be.

Just this past weekend, a fairly recent build (9471) of the OS leaked to the Web. This is a pre-escrow build (as far as I know), but includes the new tutorial and navigation aids, which Microsoft officials said back in June would be coming to Windows 8.1 by RTM.

(Escrow builds are typically builds that are near-final milestone builds on which development stops while final testing is done. One of my sources said August 5 is when Windows 8.1 actually entered escrow.)

Microsoft execs said last month that the company would deliver Windows 8.1 RTM code to its OEMs by the end of August. I'm still hearing that Microsoft is on track to finalize Windows 8.1 the last week of August.

Unlike the case with Windows 8, however, I'm hearing scuttlebutt that Microsoft is not planning to make available the final Windows 8.1 bits to its MSDN or TechNet subscribers shortly after the release RTMs. In the case of Windows 8, Microsoft RTM'd on August 1 and made the RTM bits available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers in mid-August, even though consumers couldn't get the final version until late October 2012.

The new word, one of my best tipsters tells me, Microsoft is going to hold off on making available the final Windows 8.1 bits until mid-October 2013 or so. That will be both the general availability date, as well as the "launch" date when new hardware running those bits will be available.

I've asked Microsoft if this is the case. I am still waiting to hear back.

I had heard months ago from my sources that Microsoft's plan with Windows 8.1 was to shorten the usual gap between RTM and general availability. The thinking, suposedly, was to provide existing Windows 8.1 users with the final bits very shortly after they RTM'd -- all part of Microsoft's more rapid delivery cadence goal.

Even if Microsoft waits until mid-October to release the Windows 8.1 RTM bits, the company still will have managed to deliver to customers a new release of Windows within almost exactly a year -- instead of three years after the previous release, as was the length of time between the release of Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Holding back the RTM bits immediately could give Microsoft other benefits. It could give the company more time to stamp out bugs remaining at RTM and deliver fixes for them to those with the preview build via regular patches and updates. It also could provide the company with more of a bigger bang launch event. The Windows 8 launch felt to many as though it was anti-climactic, as they had the final bits in hand for a month-plus before it happened.

If Microsoft does end up holding the Windows 8.1 bits close, many of those running the preview build won't be too happy. It's pretty buggy, but Microsoft is expected to do a fairly large update to the post-RTM bits shortly before it is generally available. In the meantime, as long as the company continues to patch and fix the preview on a regular basis, as it has been doing since June, maybe the sting won't be quite so bad....

I'd think Microsoft also will hold to a similar RTM-bit delivery schedule with Windows Server 2012 R2, the "Blue" server complement to Windows 8.1, which is being developed in lockstep with Windows 8.1. If that happens, no customers (not even volume licensees) would get the final bits until mid-October 2013. 

Topics: Windows 8, Tablets, PCs, Microsoft Surface


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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Windows 8.1 Slow Search

    I hope Microsoft fix the search feature. It is s extremely slow compared to Windows 8 :/
    • its fine to have a big release

      For the general public and such but those of us who are helping to debug and give feedback will suffer until Oct. There are new things broken in 8.1 that worked fine in 8.0. serious things like sleep mode crashing the PC.
      We don't need the "new" stuff now but it would be nice to have serious bugs fixed as we go along. I'm rooting for 8.1 as it is the best os ms has ever done.
      • "sleep mode crashing" is the BEST OS MS has ever done???

        They must not be trying very hard.
        • Beta testing.

          'nuff said.
          Jacob VanWagoner
          • Hm?

            Search has changed in 8.1. Unless you are using a Local account instead of a Passport .NET Hotmail Live type account, or have specifically turned it off in your Passport .NET Hotmail Live type account, 8.1 employs a Bing search when searching a term.

            So when the user types in a term, not only is the local computer searched, the search term is sent to Microsoft/NSA/CIA/MI5/MI6/CSIS/ASIS/FBI/Homeland Security servers for its handling and response. This, IMHO, might be cause occasional perceived slowdown.
      • Even in Win8

        I have that problem every now and then in Windows 8. I always thought it is related to my Graphics card driver.
      • Try something else

        I read recently that Win8 users can do a free Win7 install/re-install under some conditions. I don't know what those are, but you commenters are a lot smarter than me. I guess if I had all the problems you folks seem to be having, then I think I'd do that and get 8 again when it works
        • "Get windows 8 again when it works"

          So, never. Good plan.
          Han Rasmussen
      • Sounds like a fairly fundamental rewrite

        If there are bugs like that in there, it sounds as though they're doing a fairly major overhaul of the thing: you can expect that sort of thing to be fixed by the time it gets released, but on the whole, the fact that such bugs exist in the pre-release versions is a good thing: it implies that they've rethought it quite fundamentally. It's not reasonable to judge the performance of the OS on the strength of the preview versions - what you're seeing is not what's going to end up being released - which is why it's not the RTM version.
        • If you don't think 8.1 is much of an improvement over 8.0, check this out

          Michael Bradley
    • Correct

      I am also experiencing the slow performance of Search in 8.1. I thought I was the only one. The Windows 8 Search was much faster, mind you it didn't have global search like in 8.1.
      • Slow Search

        Better off using a PIM, something like Agent Ransack.
  • 28 Flags and Counting...

    How many flags does it take before a spam posts is removed by ZDNet? Ever?
  • This would make sense if...

    Holding off would make sense if anyone currently using the Preview would get an update that basically transform the Preview into the RTM. That way, Microsoft could work out the bugs on people who are obviously open to taking risks and won't complain too much if small things go wrong.

    If, however, they're just holding off for primarily arbitrary reasons... like to drum up interest in Windows 8.1, then someone needs to tell Microsoft that THERE IS ALREADY INTEREST in moving to Windows 8.1... by just about everyone (all 100 million of them) currently using Windows 8. Why prolong their suffering? Why not show some goodwill to the people who bought your unpopular OS a year ago?

    • Hardware and Software

      Not a single detachable Haswell device has been published yet.

      For perfect marketing around launch, a sufficient amount of exciting hardware needs to be available for purchase. Then a few hero devices (no more than 1 per form factor) are aggressively pushed. Reasonable for the hero devices would be 1 small tablet, 1 detachable 10'' inch, 1 ultrabook, 1 15'', 1 large tablet, and an All-in-One. Possibly also 1 wildcard hybrid like the XPS 12, Lenovo Yoga, or Vaio Duo.

      If that were to happen, it would justify delaying the release to allow inventory build up of the hero devices. Given the track record of the Microsoft marketing team I don't have any faith that something like this will happen.

      Where I live, the ratio of non-touch to touch laptops by Christmas 2012 was 20 to 1 at best, 20 to 0 at worst. The only available hardware was unsold inventory from summer 2012 now with Windows 8 installed.
      • The only windows laptop with Haswell that

        has been release is the i7. Those are in non-touch gaming machines. I think that is the OEM plan to release th i5 and i3 with 8.1.
        • But I want a i7 Haswell gaming machine WITH touch

          But so far, they don't seem to exist. First of all, touch is veritble requirement for Windows 8 and vendors should include it (or at least provide the option) for all new designs. This isn't the case though -- I can't find a single laptop with a good GPU, Haswell CPU, and hi-res, touch display. I'd even spend bonus $$$ for a convertible.

          My window of opportunity won't last much longer. I'm losing my office to an impending baby, and if I can't get a new laptop soon, my wife will simply relocate my desk (and desktop computer) rather than get rid of it (a preferred option due to space limitations). Once she deems the new location to be adequate, permission to spend $2000 on a laptop will be summarily withdrawn.
    • MS has been, and will continue to patch ...

      ... the Preview build but sooner or later, they are going to have to issue the 8.1 upgrade as a comprehensive upgrade to make sure there is no extraneous old code left behind to cause problems.
      M Wagner
    • What he ment was they want release

      day to be event a spectacle. Like the "Start Me Days" and the days they Best Buy and Office Depot opened at midnight to sell a Windows product.
    • I'm pretty sure Microsoft would release earlier if there weren't problems

      Example: I tried to upgrade my Win 8.0 RTM Professional install with 8.1 Preview. It broke the networking..I tried both lan cable, wireless, and a new install of a 4G dongle from FreedomPop. I'm a 2012 MCSE, not an amateur. Fortunately I had a full partition backup (of course). So I shrunk the partition, installed 8.1 Preview in the free space. No problems. I'd presume it would be much better for Microsoft to fix problems like this before releasing the 8.1 free upgrade to 8.0, rather than apologize to many very angry customers who are not intelligent enough to have a reliable, full backup, before they try to upgrade........
      Michael Bradley