Microsoft Offers Windows 8 Release Preview

The Windows 8 Release Preview is available.

And, Microsoft said the company's goal is to have PCs and tablets with Windows 8 and Windows RT -- the version of the operating system developed for ARM-based devices -- on store shelves in time for the holidays.

"Today, Windows 8 Release Preview is available for download in 14 languages," said Steven Sinofsky, president of the Microsoft Windows, in a blog post Thursday afternoon. "This is our final pre-release, and includes Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10, new Windows 8 apps for connecting to Hotmail, SkyDrive, and Messenger (and many more), and hundreds of new and updated apps in the Windows Store."

[Related: Windows 8 Beta: The Good, The Bad And The Confusing ]

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The Release Preview is available for download from Microsoft Windows' website.

While Microsoft had promised to make the Release Preview available by early June, the announcement was widely expected today after a blog announcing the availability of the software was briefly posted by accident on Wednesday.

"Since our first preview release last September, millions of people now use the pre-release product on a daily basis and millions more have been taking it through its paces, totaling hundreds of millions of hours of testing," Sinofsky wrote. "We genuinely appreciate the effort that so many have put into pre-release testing, and of course, we appreciate the feedback too. Direct feedback and feedback through usage contributed to hundreds of visible changes in the product and tens of thousands of under-the-hood changes."

The Release Preview is the last version of Windows 8 before Microsoft ships the final product, which the company calls the "Release to Manufacturing" or "RTM" version. That is the release that goes to PC makers and other vendors who build Windows into their products.

"Ultimately, our partners will determine when their PCs are available in market. If the feedback and telemetry on Windows 8 and Windows RT match our expectations, then we will enter the final phases of the RTM process in about 2 months," Sinofsky wrote. "If we are successful in that, then we are tracking to our shared goal of having PCs with Windows 8 and Windows RT available for the holidays."

NEXT: Windows 8, A Work In Progress

While Microsoft generally doesn't make big changes or additions to products between the Release Preview and RTM stages, Microsoft developers will continue to make improvements, corrections and bug fixes to the software until the code is frozen for the RTM stage.

"From today until RTM, we will still be changing Windows 8, as we have done in past releases of Windows," Sinofsky said. In his blog, he outlined a number of areas developers would be particularly focusing on, including installation tools and functions, security and privacy features, reliability and responsiveness, device installation and compatibility, software compatibility, servicing of Windows 8, and support for new PC hardware.

Microsoft also announced that beginning June 2, customers who purchase PCs with Windows 7 will be eligible to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $14.99 under the Windows Upgrade Offer in 131 markets, including in both the U.S. and Canada.