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Imminent Windows 8 platform released to manufacturers

Microsoft yesterday released its upcoming Windows 8 operating system to manufacturers, largely considered to be the final step before general availability.

"This means we've completed the product development and testing of the product and have started handing off the final code to our OEM partners," Microsoft spokesman Brandon LeBlanc said in a blog post. "They can now begin preparing new Windows 8 PCs and devices they'll introduce starting with General Availability."

Windows 8 is scheduled to be released to consumers on 26 October. Over the next few weeks, however, Microsoft will release the OS to several other groups.

On 15 August, for example, developers will gain access to the final version of Windows 8 via MSDN subscriptions, while IT professionals testing Windows 8 in their organisations can get it through TechNet.

On 16 August, developers can visit the Windows Dev Center for access to the tools they'll need to build apps for the Windows Store, including the final build of Visual Studio 2012. Microsoft said last month that at RTM, Microsoft will turn on its commerce platform, which will allow developers to start earning money from their apps; Microsoft today promised more details soon.

The next day, customers with Microsoft Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download Windows 8 Enterprise via the Volume License Service Center (VLSC), which will let them test, pilot, and begin adopting Windows 8 Enterprise within their businesses. Also on 16 August, Windows 8 will roll out to the Microsoft Partner Network.

Microsoft Action Pack Providers (MAPS) will get Windows 8 on 20 August, and Volume License customers without Software Assurance can start buying Windows 8 on 1 September.

Dates for access to Windows 8 for other programs will be released as they are available, Microsoft said. More details about what Windows 8 RTM means for your business are available in a separate blog post.