September 09, 2013, 1:04 PM — After developers and IT pros pelted Microsoft with complaints, the company has backtracked and decided to grant them access to the latest Windows 8.1 build instead of making them wait until mid-October.
When Microsoft sent to PC and tablet makers two weeks ago the latest pre-release version of Windows 8.1 -- the so-called RTM (release to manufacturers) build -- it broke with tradition and kept developers and IT pros out of the loop, enraging them.
Microsoft said at the time that these two camps would get access to the final version of Windows 8.1 when it starts shipping commercially on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18.
It justified the incendiary decision by saying that it had to collaborate closer than ever with its hardware partners because the OS has to work with a much broader variety of devices.
"As such, we've had to evolve the way we develop and the time in which we deliver to meet customers with the experience they need, want and expect," Microsoft official Antoine Leblond wrote two weeks ago in the blog post announcing Windows 8.1 RTM.
But in blog comments, Twitter messages and other social media channels, developers and IT pros growled, saying that this wouldn't give them time to test their applications, tools and IT environments, possibly causing chaos for them.
"How are IT pros and partners supposed to evaluate 8.1 now and perhaps change scripts/applications/whatever as needed?," wrote one person in a comment to Leblond's blog post.
They get to download both the Pro and standard editions of Windows 8.1 RTM, as well as Windows Server 2012 R2 RTM and Visual Studio 2013 Release Candidate.
However, they will not get access to the RTM version of Windows RT 8.1, the version of the OS for devices that run ARM chips, according to a Microsoft spokesman. Hardware vendors did get access to Windows RT 8.1 RTM two weeks ago.
In a blog post on Monday, Microsoft said it will still be necessary for IT pros and developers to refine and tweak their Windows 8.1 applications and IT environments once the final, GA (general availability) version of the OS ships in mid-October.
However, the RTM version offers code that is much closer to the final build than the Preview version developers and IT pros received in late June at Microsoft's Build conference.
Microsoft had argued in its defense two weeks ago that the Preview versions of Windows 8.1 and Visual Studio were sufficiently baked for the purposes of IT pros and developers.