Imagine you are in a stadium with 12,000 other Microsoft employees. It is nearly 6 pm on a sweltering Atlanta evening--in spite of the grey clouds not a drop of rain has fallen to quench the parched ground and cool the air outside the Phillips Arena.

You have been in your seat more or less for 10 hours now--back sticky, lumbar stiff, barely able to keep your head up--afraid of whiplash because you keep nodding off--it's the first day of the Microsoft Global Exchange and VP's have been going virtually without surcease since 8 am--one after another; each highlighting the accomplishments of their groups over the last year and laying out the strategy for the year ahead. This is critical information and each one helps focus the company for the year ahead.

Still, it's a marathon. Then it all changes--SteveB comes on stage---and, man, you ain't never seen nothin’ like this guy in your life--he's a force of nature. When he starts running through that crowd, shaking hands, shouting hello, embracing old friends, belly busting with new ones--he sparks an energy that suffuses everyone--the lethargy is shrugged off and forgotten--everybody is on their feet, cheering, applauding, shouting--the entire room pulsing with the energy that radiates, palpably from SteveB.

Almost immediately--rather than go into his usual opening comments--he calls Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows group here at Microsoft, to the stage.

After gratefully acknowledging the raucous applause for SteveS the room goes silent—even the noise from the corridors outside has stooped as everyone stands transfixed in front of the remote monitors lining the halls. The anticipation hangs in the air--there can be only one reason SteveB has stopped the show and brought SteveS on stage--and then he says the words "Today, we signed off on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 to RTM."

 The crowd is insane--everyone was on their feet again, while outside a cool rain feel.

 Here's the post from the Windows Server Team

Here’s the post from the Windows Client Team.

Brandon LeBlanc posted a video about the RTM and sign-off process in this blog post.

RC downloads end August 20th—get your RC bits and product keys before then here.

When can you get RTM bits? Not before August 6th—so be very suspicious of anyone claiming to offer downloads before that. See Brandon LeBlanc’s post.