Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing, a move that signals that all development and testing of the software's code is complete and the product is on track for its scheduled Oct. 26 general availability for consumers.
Channel partners who belong to the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) will gain access to the software on Aug. 16, Microsoft said.
The Wednesday announcement also means that the code for the next-generation operating system is in the hands of PC, laptop and tablet manufacturers such as Acer, ASUS, Lenovo and Toshiba.
At its Worldwide Partner Conference last month, Microsoft executives promised that Windows 8 would "go RTM" in the first week of August.
Developers will be able to download the final version of Windows 8 starting Aug. 15 by way of their Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscriptions. IT professionals who want to test Windows 8 within their organizations will also have access to the final version through TechNet subscriptions, according to Microsoft.
On Aug. 16, customers with Microsoft Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download Windows 8 Enterprise edition through Microsoft's Volume License Service Center, giving them the opportunity to "test, pilot and begin adopting" the software for their organization, Microsoft said.
That's also the day MPN members can get their hands on the final Windows 8 product. Microsoft Action Pack Providers gain access on Aug. 20. And on Sept. 1, volume license customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 8 through volume license resellers.
Oct. 26 marks the day consumers can get Windows 8 either by purchasing a new PC or by upgrading. Microsoft announced in May that consumers who buy a new Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2013, can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $14.99. In July the company said Windows XP, Vista and 7 users can upgrade to Windows Pro for $39.99 through Jan. 31, 2013.
Microsoft is still offering the Windows 8 Release Preview for download.
The Windows 8 RTM coincides with the official launch of the Windows Store commerce platform through which ISVs can publish and sell their Windows-based applications. And, earlier this week Microsoft debuted a line of mice and keyboards designed to work with Windows 8.
Microsoft also said Wednesday that Windows Server 2012, the upcoming release of the server operating system, has also been released to manufacturing and will be generally available for evaluation and purchase on Sept. 4.
Microsoft has also completed the final build of Visual Studio 2012, the next release of Microsoft's flagship development toolkit. MSDN subscribers will receive free, one-time, 12-month Windows Store and Windows Phone developer accounts.
PUBLISHED AUG. 1, 2012