Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8.1 update seems to be right on track for its October release, as the platform reportedly went RTM on August 23 as of build 9600.16384.130821-1623. Currently, the digital download is scheduled to become available on October 17 followed by the full retail release on October 18.
Sources told ZDnet that the quality metrics for Windows 8.1 are back in line with Windows 7. Previously, the vast amount of changes in the Windows 8 code base resulted in an increased number of crashes and hangs compared to Windows 7. But the overall updated platform is reportedly a bit more solid than the original Windows 8 release, which is certainly good news for users who have seemingly had nothing but trouble since upgrading to the new version last October.
So far it's unclear if TechNet and MSDN subscribers will get the gold bits in the next couple of weeks as Microsoft has traditionally done in the past. However, several sources previously indicated that the Redmond company would take a different path and release the RTM 8.1 bits on October 17 like all other consumers. That could change, but Microsoft has already admitted that the Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Intune Wave E won't launch before the October 17/18 dates.
Originally, the Windows 8.1 team was reportedly targeting Monday, August 26 as the RTM date, but because it went RTM on Friday instead, Microsoft may have opted out in announcing the Windows 8.1 status so that the news wouldn't be overshadowed by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's announced "retirement." Currently, the company is refusing to comment on Windows 8.1's official status.
Going RTM means that Windows 8.1 has passed Microsoft's internal quality checks and has been given the green light by participating hardware partners. Anxious consumers can still download and install the preview build, but when it comes time to actually apply the full-blown Windows 8.1 release, users will be required to re-install their apps; the data will still remain. Consumers wanting to avoid this annoyance may want to just wait until October 17.
Microsoft's Tami Reller said back in July that hardware partners would have Windows 8.1 in their hands by the end of August. She also said that a large number of devices would be introduced alongside the update's release. One of them could possibly be the new Surface tablets and Nokia's own Windows RT solution.
However, many OEMs are reportedly skipping the Windows 8.1 launch window, releasing their Windows 8 solutions on their own schedule followed by the Windows 8.1 update when it becomes available. This is a different approach than what was seen last year during Windows 8's debut which rolled out along with a huge number of desktops, notebooks, tablets and hybrids.