The beta period for Windows 8 has been fairly impressive and surprisingly well polished so far. The Release Preview is already largely viable as a daily use operating system. That said, many have been eagerly anticipating the day when Microsoft would declare the software ready to be released. That milestone has now been achieved.
As of August 1st, Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing. This means that in all the ways that really matter the OS is considered complete. In addition to that announcement Microsoft announced a timeline for the availability to partners:
- August 15th: Developers will be able to download the final version of Windows 8 via MSDN subscriptions.
- August 15th: IT professionals testing Windows 8 in the enterprise will be able to access the final version of Windows 8 through TechNet subscriptions.
- August 16th: Customers with existing Microsoft Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download Windows 8 Enterprise edition through the Volume License Service Center (VLSC).
- August 16th: Microsoft Partner Network members will have access to Windows 8.
- August 20th: Microsoft Action Pack Providers (MAPS) receive access to Windows 8.
- September 1st: Volume License customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 8 through Microsoft Volume License Resellers.
Or maybe not so much. Within a day of the RTM announcement a copy of Windows 8 Enterprise N was leaked to the public. The ‘N’ indicates that this particular version lacks Windows Media Player integration, which is a concession Microsoft is required to make in European markets.
There is always an element of doubt about stolen releases like this one, but a fairly substantial number of people who should be in a position to know have indicated that it is a legitimate leak. Trying it out is not generally recommended, given the potential security risks inherent in having acquired the software through unofficial channels, but screenshots are already circulating that depict the changed user interface elements that come together to make the Windows 8 experience even more unique.
When the time comes to legally upgrade, the price will be just $40 for most people. If it is for a PC bought between June 2nd 2012 and January 31st 2013 then even that price drops down to a mere $14.99. Microsoft is pushing hard to encourage adoption and prices are so low as a result that it’s a simple decision to at least try out the upgrade.
Overall this is a huge milestone that Microsoft pulled through right on time. The immediate leak has to be somewhat demoralizing, especially since it means that people may begin to judge their finished release before the entire infrastructure supporting Windows 8’s various functions has gone live (particularly the Store), but it was practically inevitable that this would get out sooner or later. In this case “sooner” just won by a wide margin.