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Microsoft Windows 8.1 RTM available to PC manufacturers

Microsoft is right on time. The software giant released its Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT RTM version to PC hardware vendors this week.

In a post by Microsoft’s Antoine Leblond, the company said it hit an important milestone: providing a new release of the software only 10 months after it arrived. But Microsoft is doing things differently this time.

“While our partners are preparing these exciting new devices we will continue to work closely with them as we put the finishing touches on Windows 8.1 to ensure a quality experience at general availability on October 18th. This is the date when Windows 8.1 will be broadly available for commercial customers with or without volume licensing agreements, our broad partner ecosystem, subscribers to MSDN and TechNet, as well as consumers.”

The kicker? While the RTM version isn’t complete, it is good enough to get out the door to the PC hardware vendors but the MSDN and TechNet communities won’t get it. Huh?

Microsoft says technology has shifted so our personal and work lives have become blurred. I don’t deny this because mobile technology and the cloud have really changed how we work and live our lives. But does this allow Microsoft to tweak the software even after the RTM goes to its hardware partners? To Microsoft, yes. Faster updates provide customers more time to tweak their own platform given all the new devices expected in the fourth quarter.

I’ll give Microsoft a pass on this because partners want to make sure Windows 8.1 looks and works well on their new form factors. Providing touch and a new interface on these forthcoming devices is not an easy task.

But, whereas MSDN and TechNet subscribers previously received the RTM shortly after its release, this time around, these communities  get them on October 18, the same as commercial customers and consumers.

Why would Microsoft do this? Don’t they want apps to be fully ready, tested and bug free as soon as Windows 8.1 hits  stores on October 18? In this case, even though Microsoft wants to abide by its rapid software release cadence, the developer community should have access to the RTM version. End users don’t want buggy apps on day one.

And, here’s another thing. If mobile is so important to Microsoft, they must realize  it’s not just about devices. It’s about the apps and the entire ecosystem. In fact, if some apps don’t work on a device when they come out in the fourth quarter, why would anyone buy it? These technologies go hand in hand and even though I’m not a developer, I can’t fathom why Microsoft would do this. As a multitasking, mobile business and enterprise user, I would never buy a device if it didn’t have the bug-free apps I wanted.

It would behoove Microsoft to change their stance on allowing MSDN and TechNet subscribers to have the Windows 8.1 RTM version. Developers need to make sure their apps are bug free and ready to go on October 18 when Windows 8.1 becomes available to the masses.

If Microsoft is going to have any chance of uncovering new opportunities in the enterprise, IT pros absolutely need the software for testing in their own environments.

I know not many enterprises are really moving to the new operating system and they would prefer Windows 7. But, that being said, Microsoft needs all the support they can for Windows 8.1. This approach only takes into account the hardware device manufacturers and for the short-term leaves out the developers and IT community. The success of Windows 8.1 doesn’t just rely on the hardware and the operating system. It is, after all, an ecosystem, and supporting all branches of the system is what’s going to slowly get Windows 8.1 into the hands of a broader set of users.

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