Microsoft will release Windows 8.1 to computer and tablet makers in late August, a company executive said today.
Tami Reller, the CFO of the Windows group, announced the date during the opening keynote address of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which runs through Thursday in Houston.
"I'm also quite happy to confirm today that Windows 8.1 will be available for our OEM partners in late August, meaning that holiday devices, many of them, will have Windows 8.1," said Reller.
She did not use the term "release to manufacturing," or RTM, the label Microsoft has historically applied to finished code ready to distribute to hardware makers.
But RTM is, in fact, what she meant.
Microsoft has not yet disclosed the public launch date for Windows 8.1 -- Reller simply repeated the "this fall" timetable the company has used for some time -- but the August RTM hints at a schedule similar to last year's Windows 8.
In 2012, Microsoft announced Windows 8's RTM on Aug. 1, and launched the OS in retail on Oct. 26.
Depending on what Reller meant by "late August," Windows 8.1 could be three to four weeks behind the schedule set in 2012 by Windows 8. That may not be the case -- Microsoft could narrow the gap and debut Windows 8.1 in late October -- and in some respects a later launch may not have a major impact.
As Reller noted, devices running Windows 8, even those purchased between now and the eventual release of Windows 8.1, will receive the latter as a free upgrade.
What the RTM date does mean, however, is that while Microsoft and its OEM partners should be ready with Windows 8.1-powered hardware for the holiday selling season, those devices will not be available for the almost-as-important back-to-school sales, which generally wrap up around the Labor Day holiday in the U.S.
The Windows 8.1 preview, analogous to a beta, can be downloaded from Microsoft's website or the Windows Store.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.