Today marks an important milestone in the Windows 8 project. The Windows 8 team is proud to share with you that a short while ago we started releasing Windows 8 to PC OEM and manufacturing partners. This means our next milestone will be the availability of exciting new models of PCs loaded with Windows 8 and online availability of Windows 8 on October 26, 2012.

Back when we first demonstrated Windows 8 in May 2011, we described it as “reimagining Windows, from the chipset to the experience,” and that is what Windows 8 (and Windows RT) represents for both Microsoft and partners. The collective work: from the silicon, to the user experience, to new apps, has been an incredibly collaborative effort. Together we are bringing to customers a new PC experience that readies Windows PCs for a new world of scenarios and experiences, while also preserving an industry-wide 25-year investment in Windows software.

We continue to be sincerely humbled by the breadth of participation in our pre-release testing. The previews of Windows 8 (Developer, Consumer, Release) have been the most widely and deeply used test releases of any product we have ever done. Over 16 million PCs actively participated in these programs, including approximately 7 million on the Release Preview that started 8 weeks ago. The depth and breadth of testing validate the readiness of Windows 8 for the market.

The openness of the previews presents a unique perspective on product development, and we’re deeply committed to the transparency of the preview process. No product used by so many people in so many different ways is developed “out in the open” like Windows 8 has been. This blog, the forums, and the preview releases form an important part of the development process. Major changes have been made at each milestone and as we promised, the final release (build 9200, for those tracking) contains many promised refinements. We are humbled by the responsibility of meeting the needs of such a diverse set of customers and enthused by the deep level of participation in the pre-release process.

While we have reached our RTM milestone, no software project is ever really “done.” We will continue to monitor and act on your real world experiences with Windows 8—we’ve used the preview process to test out our servicing and we have every intent of doing a great job on this next important phase of the product. Hardware partners will continue to provide new devices and improve support for existing devices. PC makers no doubt have quite a bit in store for all of us as they begin to show off PCs specifically designed for Windows 8.

With improvements in fundamentals, enhanced storage and connectivity, newly architected subsystems, the “fast and fluid” user experience, and the WinRT platform (to name a few), Windows 8 has literally thousands of new features. We did a record number of blogs posts (and videos) and did not even come close to covering the full breadth of Windows 8. There’s much left to learn about and discover in the product.

Some of the most exciting innovations with Windows 8 are yet to come—the innovations from developers building apps on the new WinRT platform. Today, the Store is open for business and we’ll rapidly expand to over 200 markets around the world. The opportunity for developers around the world to deliver innovative (and profitable) apps is unique with Windows 8. We’re excited to see the work developers will be bringing to Windows 8. We’ll also have a chance to talk more about the Windows 8 platform at the next BUILD conference recently announced.

We know there are lots of questions about how to get Windows 8 and when, and of course more questions to come about exploring and using the full set of thousands of Windows 8 features. Our Windows Team Blog today has posted a lot of new information and gathered up some important details that we hope will answer your questions. Please check our blog and stay in touch on the in-market developments of Windows 8 there.

On behalf of the Windows 8 engineering team, we want to thank you very much for your contributions throughout development and your contributions yet to come to Windows 8. THANK YOU!

Next stop, October 26, 2012 and General Availability!

--The Windows 8 team