When Microsoft finally felt comfortable enough a few weeks ago to make the Windows 8.1 bits RTM and give them to OEMs, many TechNet and MSDN subscribers were pretty happy as well because they assumed they would likewise be receiving the new OS. Microsoft has typically always released those same bits to TechNet and MSDN customers, giving developers and IT professionals a chance to work with the new operating system before they have to start supporting it. Microsoft decided to change that setup with 8.1, though, saying in their RTM announcement that subscribers of the previously mentioned Microsoft programs would have to wait until October 18th for Windows 8.1 just like everyone else.
However, the software giant either had a change of heart or was tired of hearing the negative feedback from TechNet and MSDN customers; they announced today that the RTM bits would be made available. I’ve checked my TechNet account and confirmed that I had access to 8.1 and 3 license keys with which to start testing. Likewise, I also got 3 keys to Server 2012 R2, so it will be time for me to update my test VMs from the release preview to RTM.
To say the least, I’m pretty happy about this decision. I always like to be able to interact with new operating systems prior to supporting them. It was quite helpful with Windows 8 since so many of the menus and options had changed from where they previously were, and Windows 8.1 is the exact same. Likewise, I couldn’t help but feel that subscribers to TechNet and especially MSDN were getting the short end of the stick. While TechNet is (sadly) being killed off, MSDN is a thriving subscription program, and it’s an expensive one at that. I really think that if people are putting up the money for a subscription to MSDN then the least Microsoft can do is give them a new OS when it goes RTM. On top of that, MSDN subscriptions are targeted squarely at developers. Windows 8 is pretty sparse on the application front at the moment, so I imagine Microsoft will be wanting to engage all of the developers they can in order to help make Windows 8.1 a success. What better way to do that than by ensuring that the most dedicated developers who have MSDN subscriptions get access to the new OS so they can start developing for it?