When will Windows 8 ship? Readers make their predictions

Entries are closed in my Windows 8 release schedule prediction pool. Four finalists are still in the hunt, based on their accurate predictions so far. So when do these fearless prognosticators think Windows 8 will ship?

Back in January I kicked off my traditional Windows launch pool. The challenge? Predict the exact dates when Microsoft will release each milestone on the road toward the general availability of Windows 8.

The rules are clear: Pick the exact date when the public will be able to get its hands on each Windows 8 milestone—beta, release candidate (RC), release to manufacturing (RTM), and general availability (GA).

I got a total of 22 valid entries. (I threw out any entry that didn’t have a specific date listed for each milestone. Hey, rules are rules.)

Microsoft released the Consumer Preview (beta) on February 29. In Japan, earlier this week, the company revealed that the Release Preview (aka release candidate, or RC) will be available to the public “in the first week of June.”

That means the second milestone date could be anywhere between June 1 and June 7. Given that June 1 is a Friday, the actual winning date is more likely to be between Tuesday, June 5, and Thursday, June 7.

With those two pieces of information, nine entries have the potential to be within a week of both dates. So who’s closest so far?

Take a bow, Solid Jedi Knight, who nailed the beta delivery date and could be right on the money with the RC date as well. These are the predictions:

  • Consumer Preview: Feb 29
  • RC: June 7 (close but not quite on the name: “Business Preview”)
  • RTM: Aug 30
  • GA: Nov 15

And here’s the rationale behind those dates:

Every time I've [guessed] early, I've lost. So I’m going as late as possible since Windows 8 didn't have a beta in January. Thinking Microsoft is going to delay strategically as possible into November. Why? Holiday sales. Launch Windows 8 a week before Thanksgiving & gain mega traction just like the Kindle Fire. Plenty of time to bug squash & definitely the best time to launch a product since consumers are ready to spend in mid to late November.

ChuckOp65 was only one day off in predicting the Consumer Preview release date and also has a shot at nailing the second date:

  • Consumer Preview: Feb 28
  • RC: June 5
  • RTM: Aug 24 (“August 24 is [an] important date for Windows”)
  • GA: Oct 25

My ZDNet UK colleague Mary Branscombe got very close on the Consumer Preview date, guessing Feb 27 (“or maybe 28th”), but her prediction of June 11 will miss the RC by at least four days. Mary’s release schedule gets considerably more aggressive after that, predicting RTM on Aug 13 and GA on September 24.

Carlm11 was five days early with his Consumer Preview prediction but could score a bullseye with June 7 as the RC date. He predicts RTM and GA dates of Aug 16 and Oct 18, respectively.

How’d I do? More than a week early for the Consumer Preview but on target to hit the remaining dates:

  • Beta – Feb 20
  • RC – June 5
  • RTM – August 23
  • GA – October 25

For reference, here were the corresponding dates for Windows 7.

  • Beta: January 7, 2009
  • Release candidate (RC): May 5, 2009
  • Release to manufacturing (RTM): August 6, 2009
  • General availability (GA): October 22, 2009

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview was nearly eight weeks behind the equivalent Windows 7 date. Since then, Microsoft has picked up the pace a bit: the RC will be roughly 4 weeks behind the equivalent Windows 7 date (between 27 and 33 days).

If Microsoft continues to work at a pace that’s equal to or slightly faster than what it did for Windows 7, we should see an RTM date in mid- to late August and GA toward the end of October.