Microsoft will release the Windows 8 Release Preview -- the last of the public test builds of the operating system before it is released to manufacturing -- the first week of June.
Microsoft Windows chief Steven Sinofsky made the announcement at a Windows developer event in Tokyo on April 24.
Microsoft officials have said previously that the company is not necessarily sticking to the same timeline it followed with Windows 7, but it's hard not to compare. Here's what that looked like:
Windows 7 beta released: January 2009
Windows 7 Release Candidate released: May 2009
Windows 7 RTM: July 2009
Windows 7 launch: October 2009
Windows 8 beta (Consumer Preview) released: February 2012
Windows 8 Release Candidate (Release Preview) released: June 2012
Windows 8 RTM: Late July/August 2012 (?)
Windows 8 launch: October 2012 (?)
Update: In case there was any lingering doubt that Windows Server 2012 (a k a Windows Server 8) is on the same schedule, Microsoft officials noted today that the Release Candidate of Server also is due in early June 2012.
The last two dates are guesses, obviously, as Microsoft officials have not shared them publicly. August is typically a month when the Microsoft campus is quiet and empty, so maybe RTM will happen at the very end of July. Again, just guessing here.
The first week of June, when the Release Preview is slated to arrive, lines up nicely with the Computex conference in Tapei. The dates for that are June 5 through 9. Last year, Microsoft used Computex to show off the latest Windows 7 test build (which was pre-Developer Preview, at that point).
I am hearing from my sources that the next Build conference, or whatever Microsoft ends up calling its Windows 8 developer conference this year, is increasingly sounding like an October event.
Some company watchers also are expecting Microsoft to sync up the Windows Phone 8 launch with the Windows 8 launch this fall -- possibly October -- if earlier rumors are correct.
Bottom line: Windows 8 is in its final development stages. It should be available, as many have been predicting for more than a year, by this fall on new x86/x64 and ARM-based tablets and PCs.