Shortly after last week’s Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report blog was published, Microsoft did it — they announced the Release To Manufacturing (RTM) version of Windows 7. According to Brandon LeBlanc, in the July 22 issue of the Windows 7 Blog:

“…RTM officially happens only after sign-off occurs. What happens is a build gets designated as a RTM contender after going through significant testing and meeting our quality bar for RTM. Then, it goes though all the validation checks required for RTM including having all languages of that build completed. If all the validation checks have passed — sign-off for RTM can occur. Today after all the validation checks were met, we signed off and declared build 7600 as RTM.”

In the same blog, LeBlanc goes on to specify:

“The RTM code will be delivered to our partners within the next few days who will then start preparing to deliver some amazing new products timed to hit at General Availability (GA) of Windows 7 on October 22nd.”

The actual RTM event was even documented in a promotional video of the final signing ceremony that was shot inside the Microsoft campus and released on YouTube. In a more formal announcement at MGX (Microsoft Global Exchange), Microsoft’s annual sales kick-off event in Atlanta, Steven Sinofsky and Steve Ballmer announced the RTM of Windows 7, as well as the RTM of Windows Server 2008 R2, and Ballmer signed the gold RTM DVDs.

Wow, this is great news, and I would suggest that we all put aside our gripes about Microsoft for a moment and offer them our warm congratulations on reaching this milestone in a timely manner. After a moment or two, feel free to resume complaining.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Windows 7 family pack

In my recent blog, Microsoft Windows 7 pricing deals spark interest and controversy, I commented on rumors about the availability and pricing for a Windows 7 family pack. Well, we now have partial confirmation. In the July 21 issue of the Windows 7 Blog, LeBlanc writes:

“I know there have been some rumors going around about a “family pack” for Windows 7. We have heard a lot of feedback from beta testers and enthusiasts over the last 3 years that we need a better solution for homes with multiple PCs. I’m happy to confirm that we will indeed be offering a family pack of Windows 7 Home Premium (in select markets) which will allow installation on up to 3 PCs. As I’ve said before, stay tuned to our blog for more information on this and any other potential offers.”

While this too is good news for consumers, actual pricing information would have been nice. Still, the rumored $150 MSRP price tag sounds reasonable. However, keep in mind that chances are that this is not a total cost.

As you may remember, in the Windows Vista Family Discount program, you had to first purchase a retail version of Ultimate (Full or Upgrade) in order to take advantage of the discount. You could then go to a special Microsoft site and purchase two Home Premium upgrade licenses for $49.99 a piece.

Just to refresh your memory, here is how the pricing for the Windows Vista Family Discount program played out. (My example Vista prices came from actual prices offered at during the early Vista availability time period.)

Table A

Windows Vista Ultimate (Full) $369.99
Home Premium upgrade License $  49.99
Home Premium upgrade License $  49.99
Total $469.97

Table B

Windows Vista Ultimate (Upgrade) $247.99
Home Premium upgrade License $  49.99
Home Premium upgrade License $  49.99
Total $347.97

Now, I don’t know if this is the same way that the Windows 7 family pack will be priced and packaged, but if it were, we could expect to see something along these lines:

Table C

Windows 7 Home Premium (Full) $199.99
Home Premium upgrade License $  75.00
Home Premium upgrade License $  75.00
Total $349.99

Table D

Windows 7 Home Premium (Upgrade) $119.99
Home Premium upgrade License $  75.00
Home Premium upgrade License $  75.00
Total $269.99

Keep in mind that I am using the full Windows 7 MSRP prices here as that is all I have to go on at this point in time, so you really can’t draw any direct comparisons. Again, I’m just speculating here based on what we saw with Vista. Microsoft may come up with a whole new pricing structure with the Windows 7 family pack.

Windows XP upgrades

I’ve recently been receiving questions from people running Windows XP wondering whether there will be Windows 7 upgrades, and the answer is yes and no.

Yes, Windows XP users will be eligible for the upgrade price. No, you will not be able to use the Windows 7 Upgrade DVD to perform an in-place upgrade on a system running Windows XP. In other words, you will not be able to insert the Windows 7 DVD into the drive on your XP system and perform the upgrade while leaving all of your applications and device drivers in place.

XP users will most likely rely on Windows Easy Transfer, which is a utility designed to copy files and settings from one Windows installation to another Windows installation on the same computer as well as from one computer to another computer.

However, Windows XP users will be able to perform one of two custom Windows 7 upgrade installations, which both essentially amount to a clean install.

The first type will install Windows 7 on a new partition in a dual-boot configuration, while the second type will install Windows 7 on the existing partition — the one containing Windows XP. This will result in the Windows XP system files and the contents of the My Documents folder being saved in a folder titled Windows.old. Either way, you will have to reinstall all your applications and drivers.

Even though the second type of custom installation will save your data files, you will still definitely want to make and have on hand backup copies of all your data, just in case.

I’ll cover Windows XP to Windows 7 Upgrades in more detail once I get my hands on a real Windows 7 Upgrade DVD and can experiment with it.

What’s your take?

Are you happy to hear that Windows 7 is on target for the October 22 release date? Are you likely to take advantage of the Windows 7 family pack? Are you planning on upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7? As always, if you have comments or information to share about these topics, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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