In order to stay on track for an October release date, which we have to assume is the unstated goal given history and the timing relative to the holidays, Microsoft needs to get the Windows 8 RTM build ready to go soon. According to rumors out of the tech blog world, they are specifically looking at announcing this at the beginning of the Microsoft Global eXchange (MGX) which runs from July 17 to July 20 in Atlanta.
The source that came up with this information, a Russian blogger known as Wzor, has established some credibility in previous instances which makes the information more believable than might otherwise be the case. Combine that with the fact that this is the most appropriate venue for the big announcement and the fact that the Windows 7 RTM was also released at this event in 2009 and it is difficult to poke holes in the theory.
Getting this release out and ready to go by the end of July is vital to its success. Without that, it is unlikely that Windows 8 computers will be ready in time to meet holiday demands. Sales of PCs have been down lately, likely in anticipation of the new and improved OS, so none of Microsoft’s partners want to have to take the sort of financial hit that such a delay would entail. Microsoft also needs to get as much exposure as possible for the Metro UI if they are to change the popular perception of inevitable disappointment for new users.
While we have heard before that we should not be expecting Windows 8 to follow a timeline similar to that of Windows 7, there seem to be more than a few similarities. The major milestones are at least placed at similar times. It is troubling for some that there has been no series of Release Candidate builds for this latest iteration of Windows, but that is to be expected this time around. Too many drastic interface changes are being made in between builds, from what we’ve seen, and sending those out to users as they happened would have too strong a chance of working against them.
Regardless of its hitting RTM, I don’t think it is safe to say that Windows 8 is “done”. The new OS is clearly prioritizing the experience it presents while connected to the internet. This allows for a fairly constant stream of updates as needed while Microsoft works through whatever bugs or shortcomings their software might have. The bundled apps, such as the Mail app I have talked about here previously, will certainly be seeing ongoing updates. It would only make sense for this to be an ongoing effort since so much rides on making the best possible transition.
The Surface tablet will help. A number of Analysts are expecting an impressive number of sales by the end of the year. Whether it will be enough on its own to gain a place beside the iPad in customers’ minds is questionable. Time will tell, though, and Microsoft didn’t get to where they are today by having no idea how to meet the needs of their customers.