That was fast.
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that Windows 8 had hit the Release To Manufacture milestone. Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky revealed the exciting news on the official Building Windows 8 blog, proudly announcing, "This means our next milestone will be the availability of exciting new models of PCs loaded with Windows 8 and online availability of Windows 8 on October 26, 2012."
However, it seems Sinofsky forgot to take into account unofficial milestones -- while the next official milestone will be the release, Sinofsky never accounted for the inevitable leaking of the final RTM build that almost always seems to slide in between RTM and retail launch. For Windows 8, this milestone was reached rather quickly. The Verge reports that an Enterprise version of Windows 8 is now available widely across various file sharing sites.
Microsoft has said it's not discussing the leak, but it's worth mentioning that this version that's available, Windows 8 Enterprise N, doesn't come with Windows Media Player. Those not downloading this version will have to wait a bit longer for the OS. While general release is set for October 26, Microsoft is releasing the final version of Windows 8 via MSDN on August 15. This will allow select audiences, including developers, IT professionals access to the RTM.
A few others will also be getting early access to Windows 8. Microsoft said earlier this week that IT pros testing Windows 8 in organizations will also have access on August 15 (this time via TechNet subscriptions), while customers with existing Microsoft Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download Windows 8 Enterprise edition through the Volume License Service Center (VLSC) on August 16. August 16 will also see access to Windows 8 for Microsoft Partner Network members, while Microsoft Action Pack Providers (MAPS) will have to wait until August 20.
If you're not among any of those groups, we'll see you on October 26 for the general release. Also expected to launch that day are Microsoft's Windows 8 Surface tablets, which were announced back in June and put Microsoft in direct competition with its hardware partners.
News of this leak comes hot on the heels of rumors that Microsoft has been forced to change the name of its Metro UI because of a patent dispute. It's thought Redmond will announce the move to a new brand this week.