Earlier this week, Microsoft confirmed that the final version of Windows 8.1 will be ready in late August. However, the announcement specifically said that the RTM launch of Microsoft's next OS would be for PC OEMs, so they can prepare and install Windows 8.1 on their products that would launch later this fall.
So does this mean Microsoft is going to sit on the RTM build and not release it to the general public until this fall, as they have done with previous versions of Windows? Maybe not. ZDNet.com reports that, according to their unnamed sources, the RTM build will be released to the public right when it reaches that stage, or maybe shortly afterwards.
If true, this represents a break from tradition in terms of releasing new versions of Windows. Typically, after they reach the RTM stage, the general public has to wait at least a couple of months before they can access it. Perhaps the fact that Windows 8.1 is being provided for free for users of Windows 8, rather than a paid download, could let Microsoft feel more comfortable in offering an RTM build right away.
Again, PC OEMs won't have their products running with Windows 8.1 out of the box until sometime later this fall, and it's likely we will see quite a few new product launches from those hardware companies as well that tie into Windows 8.1.