The answer to that question is “sooner than you might think.” The Windows Team Blog has posted details on when customers will be able to download the RTM (Release to Manufacturing) bits, and the availability depends on who you are.

 

For instance, independent software vendors and independent hardware vendors will be able to complete their testing on the final version of Windows 7 by accessing the Windows 7 RTM via Microsoft Connect or their MSDN subscription beginning August 6, 2009. Developers will be also be able to access the RTM bits through their MSDN subscription on August 6, 2009.

 

Volume License (VL) customers with an existing Software Assurance (SA) license will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English starting August 7, 2009 via the Volume License Service Center (VLSC). The rest of the languages for Windows 7 RTM should be available within a couple of weeks following the English release.

 

For IT professionals who are not part of the VL program, if you have a TechNet subscription, you will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English on August 6, 2009 and the remaining languages by October 1, 2009. Evaluation versions of Windows 7 Professional for IT professionals will be made available via the Springboard Series shortly after RTM.

 

Microsoft Gold/Certified Partners will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English through the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) Portal on August 16, 2009. The remaining languages will become available to download by October 1, 2009.

 

Microsoft Action Pack subscribers will be about to download Windows 7 RTM in English starting August 23, 2009, with the remaining languages available by October 1, 2009.

 

And finally, for consumers, retail stores will begin offering Windows 7--and it will start shipping on new PCs--on October 22.

 

More to come,

Mitch

 

Subscribe to the TechNet Flash newsletter