Microsoft on Friday completed the development of Windows 8.1 RTM. The official build number will be Windows 8.1—9600.16384.130821-1623. This build has been sent off to the OEMs and Microsoft will work closely with them over the next month to provide any Quick Fix Engineering (QFE) updates as needed.
These QFEs will be delivered to PC and hardware makers so that they can add them to their PCs and devices before launch. End users will receive these QFEs automatically via Windows Update within three days of GA.
This process of “finalizing” a product and then updating it before it is released to the public isn’t new; Microsoft did the same thing with Windows 8/RT last year. But it does explain the two month delta between RTM and GA, which many had questioned. RTM simply doesn’t mean what it used to mean, and in this age of constant iteration, no product is ever really done.
Microsoft is expected to make an official announcement of Windows 8.1 this week. Initially the plan was to announce something on Friday, but Ballmer’s retirement changed the schedule slightly. It is expected that the Windows group will continue this release schedule, but after Ballmer officially leaves this may change. I’ve also heard Windows Phone Blue may have been delayed from Q1 2014 to Q2 2014.
A number of new hardware devices are also expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Surface 2 (8-inch surface etc.) and a Nokia tablet are expected to be among these.