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Microsoft this morning announced RTM for Windows 8, which stands for Released to Manufacturing, which is the technical phrase for, “Woohoo, we’re done!” — to whatever extent software can be considered “done” in this modern era of regular online updates.

Computer makers will now be able to build Windows 8 PCs in advance of the Oct. 26 general availability of the new operating system.

Windows 8 RTM is a major milestone for Microsoft, which is counting on Windows 8 to keep its operating system relevant in a technology world increasingly centered on tablets and other forms of mobile computing. The overhauled interface, centered around a tile-based Start screen, will be disorienting to some PC users, but Microsoft is betting that people will be able to make the adjustment.

In a blog post this morning, Windows chief Steven Sinofsky cites unprecedented levels of testing for Windows 8.

He writes, “The previews of Windows 8 (Developer, Consumer, Release) have been the most widely and deeply used test releases of any product we have ever done. Over 16 million PCs actively participated in these programs, including approximately 7 million on the Release Preview that started 8 weeks ago. The depth and breadth of testing validate the readiness of Windows 8 for the market.”

Via Microsoft, here’s a timeline of next steps …

August 15: Developers will be able to download the final version of Windows 8 via MSDN subscriptions; IT professionals testing Windows 8 in organizations will be able to access the final version of Windows 8 through TechNet subscriptions

August 16: Customers with existing Microsoft Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download Windows 8 Enterprise edition through the Volume License Service Center (VLSC), allowing the opportunity to test, pilot and begin adopting Windows 8 Enterprise within their organizations; Microsoft Partner Network members will have access to Windows 8.

August 20: Microsoft Action Pack Providers (MAPS) will receive access to Windows 8.

September 1: Volume License customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 8 through Microsoft Volume License Resellers.

October 26: Windows 8 will be available to consumers either by upgrading or on a new PC. Eligible Windows 7 PCs purchased now qualify for an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $14.99 (U.S.) through the Windows Upgrade Offer.

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