Microsoft will launch the "release candidate" of Windows 8 in late May or early June, according to a Saturday report by a Dutch blog.
That launch window for the Windows 8 Release Candidate, or RC -- a label for nearly-finished software issued one final time for bug review -- fits with earlier reports claiming the new operating system will go on sale this October.
On Saturday, the WinUnleaked.tk website asserted that, "We know the Release Candidate of Windows 8 will be shared with the public between the end of May [and] the beginning of June." It did not cite any sources for those dates, however.
A week ago, Bloomberg said that computer and tablet makers will have Windows 8-powered PCs and devices ready to sell in October 2012.
The late May-early June talk of Windows 8 RC availability fits the expectations of analyst Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft, who last week said Microsoft appeared to be using a schedule that will deliver a release candidate three months after the February 29, 2012, Consumer Preview, with the RTM, or "release to manufacturing," milestone three months after that.
If Cherry is right, that would put Windows 8 RC's debut at the end of May and RTM at the end of August.
While both RC and RTM are important development yardsticks, the latter is more significant because it notes the point at which code is offered to device manufacturers for prepping new PCs, to third-party developers for final testing of new and existing applications, and to peripheral vendors priming hardware designed for the OS.
A late May-early June launch of Windows 8 RC would also largely align with the timetable Microsoft used three years ago for Windows 7. That edition entered public beta -- analogous to this year's Consumer Preview -- in early January 2009, hit RC in early May and made RTM in late July.
Because Windows 8 is on a trajectory several weeks later than was Windows 7, it's possible that the ship date for the former could be that much later than the latter. Windows 7 launched Oct. 22, 2009.
But if Microsoft accelerates the tempo of Windows 8 and unveils the new operating system the same week and day it used three years ago for Windows 7, it would host a launch event on Oct. 25, 2012.
Earlier this month, Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft's top Windows executives, said Windows 8's development cycle would mimic its predecessor's, and include a public Release Candidate and an RTM milestone.
Microsoft has not disclosed the on-sale date for Windows 8. Last week a spokeswoman again declined to comment on the operating system's timing.
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 email@example.com.