While the debut of the Windows 8 Release Preview was stealing the spotlight Thursday, Microsoft quietly launched the Release Candidates of the company's Visual Studio 2012, Team Foundation Server 2012 and Net Framework 4.5 development tools.
The move means that development and testing of those products is nearly complete with only major bug-fixes made before release to manufacturing for sale and distribution.
"Given where we are in the product cycle, these updates are primarily final touches on existing features, responses to beta customer feedback, and improvements to performance," said Jason Zander, corporate vice president for the Visual Studio team in Microsoft's Developer Division, in a blog post.
[Related: Microsoft Offers Windows 8 Release Preview]
The new releases are available for download from the Visual Studio Website.
Until now the new development tools were tagged "11," such as Visual Studios 11, and the latest releases mark the first time they have formally been given the "2012" designation. Zander said that commits Microsoft to shipping the final release-to-manufacturing versions this calendar year.
Microsoft shipped a developer preview of the new development tools in September -- the same time it shipped the developer preview of Windows 8 -- and a beta release in February, the same time the Windows 8 Consumer Preview was made available. Microsoft has sought to keep development of the Windows 8 and Visual Studio in synch and presumably will launch the RTM versions nearly simultaneously later this year.
A complete list of the Visual Studios 2012 features is available at the Microsoft Developer Network website.