UPDATE: there is a new blog post which is more complete and updated. Check out https://windoh.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/windows-8-windows-server-2012-and-many-others-a-complete-and-updated-overview-of-their-releases-and-related-aspects.
On the 1st of August 2012, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and Visual Studio 2012 were RTM’d. This was officially announced by Microsoft. Let’s take a look at what this all means. Before we dive into the recent details, let’s get a quick overview first of the Windows 8 ecosystem. This is quite important, because otherwise it’s difficult to get the full picture.
The Windows 8 ecosystem
The Windows family officially includes quite a lot of products, including the “real” Windows, Windows Phone, etc. The thing is some of those products are based on different technology, even if they all belong to the Windows OS. Starting from the next Windows version (8) those differences will mostly disappear. For example, the next Windows Phone will build on the same core as the normal Windows. This means all or almost all Windows products will share the same core and are really unified, not only in name or theoretically, but also technically; of course that doesn’t mean some specific OS editions, like Windows Phone for example, could still contain some components specific for them.
Windows 8 includes the following sub-families, each of them having several editions:
Windows 8: “the real” Windows for “normal”, “typical” devices that could be named as client PCs in practice
- [a limited release]: I guess a few limited releases will see daylight. For example, “Windows 8 for China” is rumored to be released. Let’s say these are some kind of Starter editions known from previous Windows versions. Language support should be limited here.
- Windows 8: yup, just this name, so no Home, Basic, Home Basic, Home Premium or whatever. It’s the normal, but not full Windows 8.
- Windows 8 Pro: the same, but with extras. Useful for It professionals, developers, hobbyists, enthusiasts, fans, die-hards, MS lovers (they do exist you know ;-)), people who want the “full” thing, some business people or other people who would use it for professional usage, enterprises (even for Volume License customers without Software Assurance (SA)), etc.
- Windows 8 Enterprise: only for Volume License customers with Software Assurance (SA). This is actually the most complete and full blown Windows 8, but Windows 8 Pro is the “full” thing if you’re not a Volume License customer with Software Assurance (SA) or an employee of such a customer.
- Windows RT: lets’ say this is like the “Windows 8” edition, but for ARM architectures. This edition has only a limited desktop and is especially focused on the Metro environment of Windows. The name of the edition refers to the API set/framework Metro is using (Windows Runtime or WinRT). It will never be available separately, because it’s intended to be part of managed consumer-level devices.
Windows Server 2012: meant for server editions of Windows and previously codenamed Windows Server “8” (yes, including the double quotes J)
- Foundation: not for sale separately, but it’ll be used by OEMs (could be we expect decent Windows NAS systems in the future…?)
- Essentials: this could be a decent successor for Small Business Server (SBS) and Essential Business Server (EBS) for some customers. It’s a limited Windows Server, but it’s still quite feature-rich
- Standard: aha, now we’re talking about the “real” server stuff J It includes everything, except for serious virtualization. If you want simple virtualization at server level, you ‘ll definitely need at least this edition.
- Datacenter: the same as Standard, but serious virtualization is added
- Windows Phone 8: Microsoft’s smartphone OS, which now builds upon the same core as the rest of Windows 8
Windows Embedded 8 (= Windows Embedded v.Next): well, yeah, the embedded Windows of course
- Enterprise ‘Next’
- Compact ‘Next’
It could be there are other sub-families and/or editions planned I’m not aware of right now and/or which aren’t yet known in IT World or officially announced yet (for example, could we expect a Windows Thin PC (WinTCP) 8?). Also, it’s not my intention to detail all those editions here or provide you with some kind of map or table with features which are or are not included. I’m limiting the descriptions to the bare minimum, just enough to know what’s the purpose of an edition.
The Windows 8 sub-family: every release till RTM
During Windows 8 development many, many builds were created. There builds were used for pure development purposes, internal testing usage or distribution to special selected partners (the ones Microsoft cooperate with to build the base of the whole ecosystem, i.e. companies that help to develop special OS components, important hardware manufacturers, etc.). Some of nthose builds though (at least 8 AFAIK) marked a special milestone and were distributed to a wider audience. Most of those 8 were private, meaning they weren’t available publicly, but on the other hand they weren’t meant only for the small group of VIP partners. Three of those 8 builds were public though:
- Developer Preview (DP): the base of Windows 8 was ready, but it was still quite bare
- Consumer Preview (CP): more flesh was added; this can be compared to what’s typically a beta
- Release Preview (RP): this one comes close to the final build; it’s like a Release Candidate (RC)
The RP was the latest special build AFAIK (I’m not aware of any private build made and distributed later). Microsoft has finished Windows 8 development on the 1st of August 2012; it was already announced this would happen in the first week of August. This final build (build 9200) is the one that people will buy, that will be distributed to online providers and retail shops, that will be made available to Volume License customers and MSDN and TechNet subscribers, etc. But also the one that will be delivered to manufacturers, like OEMs, which is why a final build is also called a release to manufacturing (RTM). So yes, in short: Windows 8 has been RTM’d! Development has finished, the future is determined! J
It’s not really clear which particular editions are RTM’d already. Perhaps only 1 particular edition has been finished yet… Personally I think the “normal” Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise is ready right now if we consider the Windows 8 sub-family. I don’t have a clue about limited releases (some or all):it could be some stripping off and customizing should still occur; on the other hand this could have been implemented already before…
Concerning Windows RT, I think work isn’t finished yet: I guess work for ARM is always a little bit later than for x86, as it’s newer (less experience) and is meant for more managed (consumer) devices with more finetuning to get the best overall experience; also, ARM differs somewhat amongst the different implementations from Qualcomm, Texas Instruments (TI) and Nvidia. On the other hand I believe work should finish here too in August or at last in the beginning of September. Again, I’m not sure of all this. Perhaps Windows RT was even finished earlier, who knows? It all depends on the development track, but I just think there is a slightly higher chance Windows RT still needs a few more weeks.
UPDATE: the latest blog post on the Building Windows 8 blog mentions the fact Windows RT has been RTM’d already too, although no exact date is mentioned (the 1st of August 2012?). So I think every edition of the Windows 8 sub-family is RTM’d by now, although strictly spoken the only edition that was explicitly mentioned to have been RTM’d is Windows RT 🙂
What about other sub-families?
There were 3 public or semi-public test releases for Windows Server 2012:
- Windows 8 Server Developer Preview: this one wasn’t made public, but it was available to a certain non-selected audience, like Volume License customers with Software Assurance (SA).
- Windows Server “8” Beta: yup, including the double quotes J This one was made public.
- Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate (RC). Also publicly available.
Microsoft has officially announced Windows Server 2012 was RTM’d on the 1st of August 2012 too (again, even for Windows Server 2012 it was announced this would be happen in the first week of August), although no word on which particular editions though. Personally I think every edition is ready, because there is less reason here to think otherwise.
I’m quite sure Windows Phone 8 isn’t ready yet. Just as with Windows RT? This one needs extra care, is newer, more special,… It’s rumored WP8 will be RTM’d in the beginning of September, possibly just before Nokia World (the 5th and 6th of September). As you probably know Nokia is thé Windows Phone manufacturer at the moment and they are in a big transition to WP.
Windows Embedded? I haven’t heard anything about this family being RTM’d, but there have been two test releases for the Standard edition:
- Community Technology Preview (CTP)
- Community Technology Preview 2 (CTP 2)
When will the RTMs be released?
It’s not because the final build has been made that it’s also being released (yet). Typically there is some time between the making of a build and its release (launch). Of course manufacturers get the RTM soon after the making of the build, but that’s just part of manufacturing processes; it’s not considered as some form of being released/launched. Luckily quite a lot of release dates have been announced too, so you know how long you should wait for it.
Windows 8 RTM release dates:
- 15th of August 2012: for MSDN and TechNet subscribers, which also get the right keys of course. Note this is only allowed for real development purposes only (MSDN) or evaluation (TechNet). So don’t use it for your production environment, not even at home. I have no idea which editions we’re talking about here…
- 16th of August 2012: for Volume License customers with Software Assurance (SA), through the VLSC site. Starting from this date the first production environments with Windows 8 may be set up! J But… it could be only Windows 8 Enterprise will be available for those customers (it was announced like this, but it’s not very clear if this had to be interpreted literally). Let’s wait and see.
- 16th of August 2012: for Microsoft Partner Network customers. In this case it’s clear this includes other editions too (I guess every edition except Windows RT, as this won’t be available separately).
- 20th of August 2012: for Microsoft Action Pack Providers (MAPS) (consultants and the like). I have no idea which editions we’re talking about here…
- 1st of September 2012: for Volume License customers without Software Assurance (SA), through via Microsoft Volume License Resellers, so this will be the first kind of Windows 8 sales).
- 26th of October 2012: for everyone. This is called General Availability (GA). This means everyone can buy Windows 8 in a retail shop, online, through resellers,.. or through hardware from OEMs (including Microsoft itself, yes, indeed, as they have announced their own Surface tablets). In practice the GA is the real, big launch. Everything else is for a selected audience (typically business and developer oriented) and the weeks before the GA the ones who are already playing with Windows 8 are probably only testing it or busy setting it up. Starting from the GA we may expect the first real environments being set up, sales, marketing, etc.
It’s not so obvious when some customers will be able to get other editions too. For example, if Volume License customers with SA would only get the Enterprise edition on the 16th of August, I don’t know when they will have access to (the) other editions through the same channel. Also, dates for other programs still have to be announced AFAIK.
Oh yes, the Windows 8 RTM has already been leaked, but I recommend not to use it if you would plan to look for it:
- It’s not 100% sure this is the (complete) RTM build
- It’s always possible malware or other adaptations have been made to the build
- It’s illegal
For Windows Server 2012 it was already known the RTM would be released in September 2012. Now we have the exact release date: the 4th of September 2012. This date is the General Availability (GA) for Windows Server 2012, but there is no way you can download or get it earlier through some program channels. So no, you can’t get it sooner even if you’re an MSDN or TechNet subscriber, Volume License customer with SA or whatever; at least, not as far as I’m aware of right now. Perhaps things will change and some will be able to get it earlier anyway, but right now that’s not the case.
UPDATE: it is rumored Windows Phone 8 (WP8) will be released in November 2012, although more recent rumors expect this to happen in early October. Today I’ve even read an article in a Belgian newspaper that speaks of a September release, although I think the writer has misunderstood its sources or has written down his findings in a confusing and ambiguous way. Also, it’s expected Nokia will announce its first wave of WP8 devices at Nokia World, while HTC would announce 3 WP8 devices in the 3rd week of September 2012. Perhaps the writer of the article misunderstood the word “announce” as “launch”…?
What about upgrades?
A few upgrade scenarios were already announced. If you have a valid instance of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, you are allowed to buy an upgrade (online) for $ 39,99 to Windows 8 Pro (oh yes, even if you didn’t have a “pro” edition before!). This upgrade is a license upgrade; install wise you may upgrade from an existing OS or start over freshly. This price is very low actually and makes the upgrade very attractive. In IT World this price is considered a very good and honest price, interesting for almost anyone who would like to modernize to the latest Windows version. I guess Microsoft would like to see as many people as possible on the new Windows version. Anyway, it will still be possible to buy the upgrade as a retail package, but in that case it’ll be much more expensive. I also don’t have a clue about non-upgrade prices and distribution channels.
There is also a special program called Windows Upgrade Offer. If you buy a system between (and including) the 2nd of June 2012 and the 31st of January 2013 you have the right to buy an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro (yes, Pro again!) for a certain fee in 131 countries/regions. In the US this fee is $ 14,99 (in Europe it seems this is € 14,99), which makes the upgrade an extremely well deal! This offer is meant to keep PC sales high enough in the months before and around the Windows 8 GA (yes, even a little bit after GA, because not everyone will know about the GA and not every piece of hardware will already be optimized for Windows 8 and will still include Windows 7).
Note that such upgrades are only possible if you have a previous Windows version with a key. For example, if you have bought Windows 7 with a retail package (online or through a retail shop) or on hardware from an OEM and you haven’t lost the key, you’re fine.
Oh yes, Visual Studio, the .NET Framework, Internet Explorer and Windows Store
Last, but not least, the latest release of Visual Studio (VS), 2012, is also ready (again from the 1st of August 2012). This is actually technical version 11. There were a few test releases:
- Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview: included in Windows 8 Developer Preview
- Visual Studio 11 Beta: released along with Windows 8 Consumer Preview
- Visual Studio 2012 Release Candidate (RC): released along with Windows 8 Release Preview
It’s not a coincidence VS releases are in line with Windows releases. With every big milestone of Windows developers should be able to use developer software and documentation aligned with those milestones. Just like Visual Studio, the Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) got releases aligned with those of Windows.
Visual Studio will be released at
- The 15th of August 2012: but only for MSDN subscribers
- The 12th of September 2012: General Availability (GA)
Note: information about those releases is quite ambiguous, so there is a chance I misunderstood the information. Possibly VS 2012 could be available on the 15th of August 2012 for TechNet subscribers too. And perhaps it’ll be available for everyone on this day, although the purely official release would still be the 12th of September 2012.
The .NET Framework got the same test releases as Windows, which is not surprising if you know it’s part of Windows. And yes, this means the latest version of the .NET Framework (4.5) has been RTM’d too (yup, on the 1st of August 2012, quite logical he? ;-)). Note this doesn’t mean the framework is already RTM’d as a redistributable (for example, to be installed on Windows 7).
There is another piece that is included with Windows and got the same test releases as Windows: Internet Explorer (IE). The latest version, 10, has been RTM’d on the 1st of August 2012, as part of Windows 8. There is no RTM yet as an update for other Windows versions.
There will also be versions of UPDATE2: We may not forget the following packages:
- Windows Driver Kit (WDK)
- Windows Hardware Certification Kit (HCK)
- UPDATE 2: Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK or just ADK) for Windows 8: the combination of what was previously the Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK or WAIK) and the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK)
- Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) for Windows 8
- Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP): only for Software Assurance customers. Beta versions of different components are already available.
All of these are still only available as a Release Preview and I don’t know when they will be available as an RTM, but I guess this will be soon. The same counts for the SDK, where we got those test releases:
- Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) for Windows 8 Developer Preview: included with Windows 8 Developer Preview, but only contained headers and tools; samples and documentation could be found online
- Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) for Windows 8 Consumer Preview
- Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) for Windows 8 Release Preview
UPDATE 2: There is also a separate Windows Phone 8 SDK, but this hasn’t been made public yet in any form, let alone be RTM’d/released. It’s rumored this SDK will be released on the 7th of September 2012.
Opened on the 1st of August 2012 is the Windows Store, but only for paid applications. Yes, the Windows Store was already there since Windows 8 Consumer Preview, but this was only for selected partners. Now it’s open for everyone. This also means everyone can now register as a developer, write apps (but this must be for the RTM build!) and upload them (they have to pass the certification policies though!). I guess other app types (like free apps) will also be allowed soon, at least a few weeks before the GA I think.
Launch events, parties,…?
Yes of course! J Little is known about the Windows 8 launch event on the 26th of October 2012, but everyone expects this to be huge. The first launch event though is for Windows Server 2012, followed by the 12th of September 2012 for Visual Studio. Both events will be virtual events. I don’t know a thing about a Windows Phone event, but I guess we may expect one (or perhaps to will coincide with the Windows 8 launch…?).
- Blog post about the Windows 8 RTM on the “Building Windows 8” blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/08/01/releasing-windows-8-august-1-2012.aspx
- Blog post about the Windows 8 RTM on the “Blogging Windows” blog (through the blog portal Windows Team Blog): http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/b/bloggingwindows/archive/2012/08/01/windows-8-has-reached-the-rtm-milestone.aspx
- Blog post about the Windows 8 RTM on the “Windows for your Business Blog” blog (through the blog portal Windows Team Blog): http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/b/business/archive/2012/08/01/what-windows-8-rtm-means-for-businesses.aspx
- Windows Upgrade Offer: https://windowsupgradeoffer.com
- Blog post about the “normal” upgrade on the “Blogging Windows” blog (through the blog portal Windows Team Blog): http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/b/bloggingwindows/archive/2012/07/02/upgrade-to-windows-8-pro-for-39-99.aspx
- Blog post about the Windows 8 editions on the “Blogging Windows” blog (through the blog portal Windows Team Blog): http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/b/bloggingwindows/archive/2012/04/16/announcing-the-windows-8-editions.aspx
- Blog post about Windows 8 Enterprise on the “Windows for your Business Blog” blog (through the blog portal Windows Team Blog): http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/b/business/archive/2012/04/18/introducing-windows-8-enterprise-and-enhanced-software-assurance-for-today-s-modern-workforce.aspx
- Blog post on the Server & Tools Blogs (= Server and Tools Blog Network) itself: http://blogs.technet.com/b/serverandtools/archive/2012/08/01/platform-delivered-microsoft-visual-studio-2012-and-windows-server-2012-released-to-manufacturing-rtm.aspx
- Blog post about VS 2012 and .NET Framework 4.5: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/somasegar/archive/2012/08/01/visual-studio-2012-and-net-4-5-complete.aspx
- Blog post about the Windows Server 2012 RTM on the Windows Server Blog (written by Jeffrey Snover): http://blogs.technet.com/b/windowsserver/archive/2012/08/01/windows-server-2012-released-to-manufacturing.aspx
- VS 2012 virtual launch event: http://www.visualstudiolaunch.com
- Windows Server 2012 launch event: http://windowsserverlaunch.com
- Blog post about VS 2012 on the Jason Zander’s blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/jasonz/archive/2012/08/01/final-build-for-vs-2012-availability-and-launch-dates-ahead.aspx