Microsoft hit a big milestone this week — Windows 8 was released to manufacturing (RTM). This means that they released the completed version to their OEM (original equipment manufacturers), which would be companies like HP and Dell, as well as fortheir own manufacturing of boxed packages.
Developers and IT professionals can get access to the RTM version on August 15th, through their subscriptions to MSDN and TechNet.
Large volume customers with "Microsoft Software Assurance" will get access on August 16th, while those large customers without Microsoft Software Assurance can get access as of September 1st.
Most of us will get access at time of General Availablity — the release date is scheduled for October 26th.
At that point, Windows 8 will be available on new PC’s. Unless they change their pattern, Windows 7 should be available on PC’s for a while after that.
Note that Microsoft learned their lesson with the transition from Windows XP to Windows Vista — users won’t change operating systems unless they have to, so don’t expect Windows 7 to be available as a pre-installed option very long after the release of Windows 8.
Microsoft really wants to make Windows 8 a success. Not only do they want to sell new Windows versions installed on the OEM’s computers, they want to get a lot of people upgrading to Windows 8 from earlier versions of Windows.
First, in a salute to their prior practice, there’s a cheap upgrade option for new computers purchased during a transitional period. If you buy a new computer with Windows 7 between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013, you can order an upgrade for only $14.99. There’s a hard deadline on this discount — the last day to register and order the discounted upgrade is February 28, 2013 (notice this is not January 31st!).
More important to the rest of us is the huge discount, versus their past practice, on upgrading from earlier versions of Windows. They’ve got a special promotion for the rest of us.
This upgrade promotion expires January 31, 2013, so don’t miss it if you’re at all interested in upgrading (notice that this is not February 28th when the "new PC" upgrade expires!).
The upgrade process is going digital; you purchase and download it. Then, you can burn your own DVD from the downloaded software, if you wish.
If your PC is running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, you will qualify to download a upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $39.99 (in 131 markets — no hint yet which markets are excluded, if any). An optional backup DVD is $15 plus shipping and handling.
Microsoft wants us to purchase and download the upgrade directly from their site windows.com. This way, they can get all the upgrade revenue. A boxed upgrade package is supposed to be available, only during the upgrade promotion period, from retail vendors for $69.99.
What will I do personally? At $40 for the upgrade, I doubt that I will be able to skip upgrading; I’ll definitely have to try it on one machine. I understand that the "interface formerly known as Metro" is not mandatory (using the name Metro apparently ran into some issues), and that we can select to use the Windows 7 interface. That’s good news, as most of us don’t have touchscreens on our PC’s, and don’t want them — and like the Windows 7 interface on our computers.
Update: Unfortunately, later word was that the Windows 7 interface is not available as the default or settable as the default, although you can move to it once you’ve booted the computer.