Overnight Microsoft have confirmed that Windows 8,1 has been released to hardware manufacturers to ship on new PCs. General availability of Windows 8.1 will be October 18th, but the announcement also confirmed that MSDN and TechNet subscribers wouldn’t get it early. These subscription services give users and businesses access to Microsoft software, keys and a number of other entitlements.
In the past, the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone traditionally meant that the software was ready for broader customer use. However, it’s clear that times have changed, with shifts to greater mobility and touch as well as the blurring of work and personal lives. As such, we’ve had to evolve the way we develop and the time in which we deliver to meet customers with the experience they need, want and expect. We’ve had to work closer to our hardware partners than ever before. Reaching this milestone is about optimizing the overall experience for our customers. Our hardware partners are in a position to prepare the wide array of innovative devices our customers can expect later this fall – just in time for the holidays. Over the next several months we’ll see beautiful, powerful devices, from the smallest tablets to the most lightweight notebooks to versatile 2-in-1s, as well as industry devices designed for business.
While it’s disappointing that MSDN subscribers don’t get early access, it’s typically only been a couple of weeks before GA it’s not a big problem. Most enthusiasts are already running the preview of Windows 8.1 released at Build, with the differences between that build and GA being fairly subtle. The single biggest thing I’m looking forward to is the new Mail app which isn’t in the preview, the demo at Build was seriously impressive.
More info at Windows Blog