The Windows 8.1 Enterprise SKU will be available to MSDN/TechNet and volume licensees before the end of September, officials said today. The RTM version of Windows 8.1 RT still isn't going to be released early. (Windows 8.1 RT has leaked to the Web, however.)
Microsoft's decision, reiterated a couple of weeks ago, was to withhold the RTM bits from everyone until October 18, the official "launch" of the product. This unprecedented move resulted in outcry from many -- especially developers. Some devs maintained they needed the RTM bits to make sure their current Windows apps work with the soon-to-be-released update to Windows 8. (The devs also need the RTM version of Visual Studio 2013 to get their updated Windows apps ready. The near-final but not-yet-RTM version of Visual Studio 2013, the Release Candidate build, is available to developers today, as well.
The Windows Store still won't be open early for submission of updated and new applications; that still is slated for October 18, which is general availability/launch day for Windows 8.1. "The RTM versions of tools, services, and platform are required for store submissions," Microsoft officials reminded developers in a blog post today.
Microsoft will be continuing to "refine and update the product and tools in preparation for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 general availability on October 18 and the release of Visual Studio 2013 RTW (release to Web, which is October 18)," according to today's blog post. Updates to built-in drivers and bundled apps are continuing. Microsoft plans to push these updates to PC makers just before October 18.
Third-party apps may require "final refinement to onboard" by the time of the October 18 general availability milestone, the post cautions. However, from what I've heard, the RTM versions of Windows 8.1/Windows Server 2012 R2 and the RC version of Visual Studio 2013 should provide developers with what they need, from an application programming interface (API) and feature perspective so they can get their apps in the store quickly after October 18.
I'll be curious to see -- if Microsoft continues releasing new versions of Windows on an annual or near-annual basis -- whether it will continue to release RTM bits early to developers and volume licensees or try to change that historical pattern in the future.