With Windows 7’s “Release to Manufacturing,” or RTM, only days away, Microsoft announced Tuesday which users will be able to get the final code before its official October 22 commercial debut.
In a posting on Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 7 team blog, spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc outlined who will have early access and when. In many cases, that access is only two or three weeks away.
RTM is scheduled for sometime between now and July 31 — ten days. At that point, the system code is frozen, and distribution to PC OEMs and shipment to manufacturing plants for shrink-wrapped boxes begins. For example, PC OEMs will receive the so-called “gold” code approximately two days after RTM.
However, despite freezing the code, there still remains a ballet of production and distribution details to be carried out, with plenty of room to stumble along the way.
For instance, subscribers to Microsoft’s TechNet and MSDN programs will be able to begin downloading Windows 7 RTM as of August 6 — although that’s only for the English version. Other languages will be available for download by TechNet and MSDN subscribers on October 1.
Another group — Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified Members — will be able to download the English RTM as of August 16. Once again, October 1 is the availability date for other languages.
Meanwhile, Volume Licensees with Software Assurance contracts will be able to begin downloading Windows 7 RTM on August 7. Again, only the English version will be available, with other languages having to wait as much as another two weeks, LeBlanc said. Volume License customers who don’t already have a Software Assurance contract will be able to buy Windows 7 via volume licensing as of September 1.
LeBlanc also confirmed earlier rumors that Microsoft will offer a Family Pack that will allow the purchaser to install Windows 7 on up to three different PCs.
“We have heard a lot of feedback from beta testers and enthusiasts over the last 3 years that we need a better solution for homes with multiple PCs. I’m happy to confirm that we will indeed be offering a family pack of Windows 7 Home Premium,” he added.
What Microsoft will not be doing, despite a lot of wishing by users, is offering free or deeply discounted copies of Windows 7 for beta testers.
The blog post states that there are no special offerings for beta testers, but suggested that a large number of participants are already subscribers to the TechNet service.
“If you don’t have TechNet and are waiting for GA [General Availability] (to either purchase Windows 7 or wait for your pre-order to arrive) you can continue to use the RC [Release Candidate],” the post said.