Microsoft said Wednesday that it has released Windows 8 to manufacturing, meaning that the world should get its first look at the final version of the company’s next generation operating system in about two weeks, when developers will be able to download the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) build. Microsoft also said that its Windows Store is now open for developers to submit paid apps.
The final version of Windows Server 2012 was also released, Microsoft said.
Consumers will be able to buy Windows 8 on October 26, either by upgrading their existing Windows 7, Vista or XP licenses for $39.99 or by buying an eligible Windows 7 PC now, then upgrading it for $14.99. Microsoft hasn’t released a standalone price for Windows 8.
Developers and IT professionals will be able to get it earlier. Techies with a subscrption to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN)or Technet will get access on August 15. That will be a key date for Windows 8 as developers begin submitting apps to the Windows Store as the first corporate deployments roll out.
In the meantime, Microsoft plans to keep busy. “While we have reached our RTM milestone, no software project is ever really ‘done,’ Windows chief Steven Sinofsky noted in a blog post Wednesday.
“We will continue to monitor and act on your real world experiences with Windows 8 — we’ve used the preview process to test out our servicing and we have every intent of doing a great job on this next important phase of the product. Hardware partners will continue to provide new devices and improve support for existing devices. PC makers no doubt have quite a bit in store for all of us as they begin to show off PCs specifically designed for Windows 8.
A Critical Moment
For Microsoft, this is a critical time. Not only is Windows 8 the most important operating system release in its history - to be fair, that’s Microsoft’s stock line during every Windows launch - but observers are beginning to take a closer look at the Windows market in general.
Canalys, for example, released a report Wednesday claiming that 108 million client PCs would be sold this year. But the numbers include desktops, notebooks, netbooks and “pads,” or tablets. Of the Windows market, Canalys wrote:
“Windows PC shipments continued to disappoint. Ultrabooks have not hit the price points that could excite large numbers of buyers and the share of the overall market taken by Windows fell to a new low of 73%.”
For computer and device makers, the RTM milestone means that they can now finalize preparations of the new Windows 8 PCs and devices they’ll introduce starting with the operating system’s general availability.
Welcome to the Windows Store
Microsoft also said that its Windows Store was open for business, allowing developers to submit paid Metro apps for Windows 8. (Developers need to have a Windows 8 RTM build to do so, however, meaning that the first apps will probably be added on Aug. 15.)
Microsoft made one major change to the Store: incorporating search on the main page, merely by typing. “This matches the search behavior of Start, it’s what customers expect, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to help customers find great apps,” Ted Dworkin, partner program manager for Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.
Microsoft added 54 new geographical markets to the Windows Store’s list of catalog offerings, giving developers more-specific market opportunities, the company said. In addition, Microsoft added 24 new app certification languages, for a total of 38.
At a Windows Phone preview event, Microsoft showed off an auto-translate feature that allowed app developers to a wider variety of regions and languages. As before, Microsoft takes a 30% cut of each app sale up to a total of $25,000, when the fee drops to 25% per sale.
Key Windows 8 Dates
Microsoft also released a series of key dates as Windows 8 moves closer to launch:
August 16: Customers with existing Microsoft Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download Windows 8 Enterprise edition through the Volume License Service Center (VLSC), allowing users to test, pilot and begin adopting Windows 8 Enterprise.
August 16: Microsoft Partner Network members will have access to Windows 8.
August 20: Microsoft Action Pack Providers (MAPS) receive access to Windows 8.
September 1: Volume License customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 8 through Microsoft Volume License Resellers.