Microsoft made it official today: both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 have been released to manufacturing, following through on the company's promise to "RTM" Windows 7 in the second half of July.
The RTM milestone is not earth-shattering news to consumers, as most of the end-user Windows 7 features have been on display in beta and release candidate form for months. But it is an important step for Microsoft partners and developers. OEMs (original equipment makers) will now have final code to get PCs ready, software development partners can test new applications, and independent hardware vendors can prepare new hardware.
Windows 7 marks the first time since Windows 2000 that the client and server versions of Windows will release simultaneously. The networking features that bind the client and server such as DirectAccess and BranchCache have been well-documented at this point, as have the popular Windows 7 desktop features on the client side such as a revamped taskbar and the Aero graphical interface.
What's most compelling about Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 RTMs is the sense of closure. The development of both has been completed and the final code is ready to be sent off to partners, OEMs and developers.
Here's a rundown of how the RTM of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will affect everyone from PC makers to IT managers.
What Win 7 RTM Means for Business Users and IT Pros
Volume license customers that have an SA (Software Assurance) license with Microsoft will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English on August 7 through the VLSC (Volume License Service Center). Microsoft says the rest of the languages for Windows 7 RTM should be available within a couple of weeks after that.
Volume License customers without an SA license will be able to purchase Windows 7 through Volume Licensing starting on Sept. 1.
IT professionals who want Windows 7 RTM have a few options. If they have TechNet subscriptions, they can download Windows 7 RTM in English on August 6 and in the remaining languages on Oct. 1.
If your company has an SA license with Microsoft you can download Windows 7 RTM in English on August 7 through the VLSC (Volume License Service Center). If your company does not have SA, you will have to wait until Sept. 1.
Microsoft also has a resource called The Springboard Series that helps IT pros with Windows deployments. The company said it will allow IT pros to access RTM code for evaluation from the Springboard site "shortly after RTM" but did not give a specific time.
What it means to PC Makers (OEMs)
OEMs will have access to Windows 7 RTM software images as early as this Friday, as Microsoft works to release and distribute the images. OEMs can then start preparing images for new PCs that will ship with Windows 7 pre-installed on Oct. 22.
"During the next two or so months, OEMs will be finishing the integration and testing of their systems with Windows 7," says Bill Laing, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Server & Solutions Division.
Mike Angiulo, GM of the Planning and PC Ecosystem Team for Windows, added in an interview that OEM testing of Windows 7 is ahead of schedule compared to predecessor Vista.
"OEMs have been testing Windows 7 on consumer PCs since the release candidate [which launched in early May]," Angiulo says. "We have 40 percent more Windows 7 logos that we've signed off on for compatibility hardware than we did for Vista at the same point in time because we started testing earlier. OEMs will start actual manufacturing right away."
One OEM, Hewlett-Packard, which has done early adoption and engineering work on both the client and server side for Windows 7, is now taking on the role of an advisor to customers at the RTM phase.
Tom Norton, HP's Global Practice Lead of Microsoft Consulting Services, said in an interview: "We had early access to Windows 7 and know how it can be deployed in enterprises and customers are looking to us to help guide them through that."
What It Means to Partners
Independent Microsoft hardware and software partners can download Windows 7 RTM from Microsoft Connect or MSDN on August 6. Microsoft recommends that if you are a partner that has been testing Windows 7, now is the time to complete your testing.
Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified Members will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English through the MPN (Microsoft Partner Network) Portal on Aug. 16. The remaining languages will become available to download on Oct. 1.
Starting Aug. 23, Microsoft Action Pack Subscribers will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English. By October 1st, the remaining languages will become available to download.
What It Means for Developers
MSDN subscribers and TechNet subscribers will be the first customers to get access to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, on Aug. 6 in English and by Oct. 1 for the remaining languages.
Are you a Tweeter? Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter at twitter.com/CIOonline.
This story, "Windows 7 RTM Arrives: What You Need to Know" was originally published by CIO.