The next version of Windows is ready for showtime. Earlier this morning, Microsoft announced that it has "started releasing" both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 to its hardware partners. That means the company has churned out the final build of the operating system and is now ready for Windows 8.1's October 17 release date.
Interestingly, Microsoft notes that the October 17 release date will apply to everyone—including MSDN and TechNet subscribers. That seems to be a change of policy compared to last year. Last August, when Windows 8 hit release-to-manufacturing status, MSDN subscribers were able to download the RTM build as a free, 90-day trial. For now, early adopters will have to stick with the Windows 8.1 Preview. (Or, you know, with Windows 7.)
Microsoft's announcement doesn't say much else of note. It adds that partners are now "in a position to prepare the wide array of innovative devices . . . customers can expect later this fall," and Microsoft will spend the next several weeks working "closely" with them in order to "ensure a quality experience at general availability." We can apparently look forward to "beautiful, powerful devices, from the smallest tablets to the most lightweight notebooks to versatile 2-in-1s, as well as industry devices designed for business." There will presumably be Haswell ultrabooks and Silvermont tablets in the mix, among other things.