At 10am on Tuesday, 22 July AEST, Microsoft announced Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 had gone gold and been released to manufacturing partners.
Speculation that the highly-anticipated announcement was imminent came when Microsoft blogger Brendan LeBlanc announced details about when various Microsoft customers would gain access to the RTM code, without actually revealing when the official RTM would be. General availability remains unchanged from 22 October.
The following groups will be eligible to get their hands on the RTM builds before this time:
- OEMs will have access within two days of the RTM announcement, so by the end of this week
- ISV and IHV Partners can download from 6 August via Microsoft Connect or MSDN
- Gold/Certified Partners can download via the Microsoft Partner Network Portal from 16 August (remaining languages from 1 October)
- Action Pack Subscribers can download from 23 August (remaining languages from 1 October)
- Volume License customers with Software Assurance can download from 7 August via the Volume License Service Center. VL customers without Software Assurance can purchase Windows 7 RTM from 1 September
- TechNet and MSDN subscribers can download via their subscription portals from 6 August (remaining languages from 1 October)
In the phone conference at which the RTM was announced, Rich Reynolds, general manager of the Windows Business Group at Microsoft, explained that the staggered approach, particularly for TechNet/MSDN/VL customers, was to ensure that the user experience was as good as possible.
Microsoft appears to be keen to avoid the bottlenecks which hit customers and subscribers when Windows 7 Beta and RC were released. If those experiences are anything to go by, demand for the RTM code will be exceptionally high, but as RTM won't be available for download by the general public, those extreme slowdowns shouldn't recur.
Microsoft was committed to releasing Windows 7 within three years of Windows Vista, and they've managed this with a few months up their sleeve. Windows Vista went RTM on 8 November 2006, so Microsoft has succeeded in getting both the RTM to both business customers as well as (all being well) the general public within its self-imposed three-year window.
The announcement is an important one for businesses, with both the client and server products being released together. Windows 7 is definitely designed to function at its best in an environment supported by Windows Server 2008 R2.
The beta and RC builds have closely followed each other throughout the development cycle, which has enabled IT pros to do some feature-complete lab testing. From Microsoft's perspective, this should serve to alleviate some of the concerns with product familiarity which stalled the mass take-up of Windows Vista.