In late August, Microsoft announced that Windows 8.1 was shipping out to OEMs. In the same announcement, Microsoft said that subscribers to its MSDN or TechNet services would not get early copies of Windows 8.1. As we learned from the Xbox One debacle, however, Microsoft will relent when enough people complain.
Microsoft announced today that Windows 8.1 RTM is now available to subscribers to MSDN and TechNet. This ensures that developers get a head start on making apps for Windows 8.1 before it launches to consumers in October.
So, what changed between late August and now? The people who pay Microsoft an annual fee rightly complained that getting Windows 8.1 at the same time as everybody else was unfair and, frankly, really stupid.
Here's what Microsoft's Steven Guggenheimer had to say about it:
We heard from you that our decision to not initially release Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2 RTM bits was a big challenge for our developer partners as they’re readying new Windows 8.1 apps and for IT professionals who are preparing for Windows 8.1 deployments. We’ve listened, we value your partnership, and we are adjusting based on your feedback. As we refine our delivery schedules for a more rapid release cadence, we are working on the best way to support early releases to the various audiences within our ecosystem.
As you can see above, Microsoft apparently didn't know how to best approach developer needs as it moved to a rapid release schedule. Sure, developers could download the Windows 8.1 Preview, but it didn't give them the full feature set that OEMs got in late August. Perhaps Microsoft felt that the Windows 8.1 Preview was enough, but that line of thinking makes a MSDN or TechNet subscription completely unnecessary. Giving Windows 8.1 to developers now will instill some faith lost in Microsoft after the company initially announced its launch plans.
On a final note, Windows 8.1 isn't the only early release that developers can get a hold of through their subscription. They can also download Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows Server 2012 R2 RTM and Visual Studio 2013 Release Candidate. The Windows builds can be downloaded only through your MSDN or TechNet subscription, but the Visual Studio 2013 RC can be downloaded by anyone. You can grab that here.[Image: WindowsVideos/YouTube]