That's the real 'final' date.
Now that the retail date for Windows 7 is officially set for October 22, Microsoft is going to be slowly planning out all the things that have to happen between now and then.
The retail boxed copy of Windows 7 only represents a small portion of the new OS’ rollout for Microsoft. It’s the licenses sold with new PCs that makes Windows the top selling product for the company.
With October 22 being the launch date, OEMs will have to have their systems configured, tested and fully prepared – which requires greater lead time than just packaging a disc. For this reason, the really big date for Windows 7 is when hits RTM, released to manufacturing in its final state for OEMs to build systems around.
Microsoft doesn’t have an RTM date to share yet, but Brandon Leblanc, Windows Communications Manager, wrote in a blog, “Obviously, Release To Manufacturing (RTM) is an important milestone on the path to GA. We anticipate that we’ll be able to make the RTM code for Windows 7 available to our partners sometime in the 2nd half of July. We also expect to be able to make RTM code for Windows Server 2008 R2 available to our partners in this time frame as well.”
While Windows 7 will be ready for the holiday shoppers, students getting new machines for back-to-school will still be faced with Windows Vista. The remedy that, Microsoft will offer an upgrade program for those who purchase new PCs with Vista to move to Windows 7. LeBlanc said that details regarding the upgrade option program will soon be revealed.