As anticipated, Microsoft this afternoon announced that it had finished work on Windows 7, declaring that the new operating system had met the "release to manufacturing" (RTM) milestone.
"Today, after all the validation checks were met, we signed off and declared build 7600.16385 as RTM," said Microsoft spokesman Brandon LeBlanc in a message that will be added later today to the company's Windows 7 blog.
Microsoft also announced that Windows Server 2008 R2, the server software companion to Windows 7, reached RTM today. Both Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 are slated to launch Oct. 22.
"The RTM code will be delivered to our partners within the next few days who will then start preparing to deliver some amazing new products timed to hit at General Availability (GA) of Windows 7," said LeBlanc today, referring to the Oct 22 public debut.
Some users, however, will have access to the final bits of Windows 7 months before that. Developers and IT professionals who subscribe to MSDN (Microsoft Developers Network) and TechNet, for example, will be able to download the new operating system starting Aug. 6 for the English editions, and Oct. 1 for the remaining language-specific versions. Windows Server 2008 R2 will be posted to the services sometime in the second half of August.
Hardware and software vendors will also get their hands on Windows 7 on Aug. 6 via MSDN or Microsoft Connect, the company's beta test support portal. Computer manufacturers will start receiving the final version of Windows 7 this coming Friday.
Microsoft announced the RTM news at 4:40 p.m. ET to give CEO Steve Ballmer a chance to talk up the new software to the company's sales force, which is meeting this week in Atlanta for Microsoft Global eXchange (MGX). Ballmer is slated to give a keynote address at MGX later on Wednesday.
The move to RTM today was not a surprise. Previously, Microsoft had said it was shooting for the second half of this month; yesterday, sources said that Microsoft would declare RTM today.
On Tuesday, LeBlanc also reminded beta testers -- the millions who downloaded the beta in January and the release candidate in May -- that they will not receive a free copy of Windows 7.
Among the details still missing about Windows 7 are the launch date and price of the three-license "family pack" that Microsoft has confirmed, and the prices for the in-place "Anytime Upgrades" that users of one edition can purchase to unlock features in a higher, more expensive version of the OS.
According to resellers who have leaked pricing information, the family pack -- which allows three PCs to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium from XP or Vista -- will cost $150.