Microsoft to declare Windows 8 RTM in three weeks, says report

Russian blog's claims match likely July 18 announcement; predicted date based on Windows 7's timeline

Microsoft is a little more than three weeks away from wrapping up Windows 8, according to leaks of recent builds of the upcoming operating system and claims by a Russian blog.

Windows 8 RTM, for "release to manufacturing", is close, said sites and discussion forums that posted information about builds marked as "RTM", the milestone that marks completed code ready to ship to computer makers.

Neowin.net first reported Monday on the rumors of the impending completion of Windows 8.

According to the Russian-language blog WZor.net, which requires registration for viewing, the Redmond, Washington, developer will announce that Windows 8 has reached RTM at the Microsoft Global eXchange (MGX), which runs July 17-20 in Atlanta.

MGX is the company's annual internal mass meeting of executives, salespeople and product managers where the next fiscal year's goals and projects are trumpeted to the troops.

The week before MGX, on or around July 12, Microsoft will sign off on the "gold" code for RTM - in effect approving the latest compiled build as suitable for distribution - said WZor.net.

Microsoft also used MGX to announce Windows 7 RTM in 2009.

Currently, new builds of Windows 8 are being held in what Microsoft calls "Escrow," meaning that all development stops while the code is tested. If no major bugs are found, that Escrow build then transforms into the milestone, in this case, RTM. That process is common among software developers.

It's not unusual for multiple builds, one after the other, to be tagged as Escrow.

The late July timetable for Windows 8 RTM matches 2009's Windows 7. That year, Microsoft announced RTM on July 22 after compiling the last build on July 13. It officially launched the operating system on Oct. 22.

Earlier this year, Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said Microsoft had to deliver Windows 8 RC by the end of May and RTM by the end of August to make a fall ship date. Microsoft made Cherry's deadline for Windows 8 Release Preview, which hit download servers May 31, and if WZor.net's account is on target, will do the same for Windows 8 RTM with weeks to spare.

Another date that reinforces the idea that Microsoft will declare Windows 8 RTM next month is the company's quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts, slated for July 19.

Three years ago, Microsoft noted Windows 7 RTM during its July 23, 2009, earnings call. Microsoft traditionally holds its call for the fourth fiscal quarter - the one that details the period ending June 30 - at MGX.

The July RTM of Windows 8 is also significant because it shows that Microsoft has made up the weeks it was once behind Windows 7's schedule.

Microsoft shipped Windows 8 Consumer Preview on Feb. 29, about seven weeks later than the early-January 2009 appearance of the Windows 7 public beta. Microsoft made up almost half of that time when it issued Windows 8 Release Preview on May 31, not quite four weeks later than the comparable Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) milestone of May 5, 2009.

Based on Microsoft's timing with Windows 7, the most likely date for the Windows 8 RTM announcement would be July 18, a Wednesday, and the potential date for an address at MGX by CEO Steve Ballmer. In 2009, Ballmer used a July 22 MGX keynote to reveal Windows 7 RTM; that was also a Wednesday.

Subscribers to MSDN - the Microsoft Developer Network - and TechNet will be able to download the Windows 8 RTM abouttwo weeks later, assuming Microsoft follows past procedure.

Microsoft has not yet set a firm release date for Windows 8, a ship date for the Surface tablets running that OS or the Windows RT offshoot, or set a price for either the desktop operating system or the tablets it unveiled last week.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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