Microsoft has backtracked on its decision to prevent software developers gaining early access to Windows 8.1, the updated version of the Windows 8 operating system, following an outcry from developers.
In August, Microsoft revealed that Windows 8.1 was ready to go and had been released to manufacturing ahead of an 18 October launch. But software developers were told that they would have to wait until the operating system was on general release before they could get their hands on it.
Microsoft's decision appeared at odds with a previous strategy of allowing programmers to develop software using the release to manufacturing (RTM) build ahead of new versions of Windows going on general sale.
Developers slammed the decision, which they regarded as obstructive, which resulted in a Microsoft u-turn that will see Windows 8.1 RTM released to Technet and MSDN subscribers later this month.
"We heard from you that our decision to not initially release Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2 RTM bits was a big challenge for our developer partners as they're readying new Windows 8.1 apps and for IT professionals who are preparing for Windows 8.1 deployments," Steven Guggenheimer, Microsoft chief evangelist, wrote in a blog post.
"We've listened, we value your partnership, and we are adjusting based on your feedback. As we refine our delivery schedules for a more rapid release cadence, we are working on the best way to support early releases to the various audiences within our ecosystem," he added.
Windows 8.1 marks Microsoft's attempt to address criticisms of the touch screen and tablet-focused Windows 8 operating system which, while accepted by Surface Pro users, has alienated large numbers of desktop and laptop users used to a more traditional interface.
Most notably, users complained about the "Start" menu being dropped, making it difficult for those on non-touchscreen devices to access applications. Windows 8.1 will see the Start menu reintroduced and will allow users to boot straight to it, rather than having to go via the touchscreen user interface.
Microsoft has also promised that enterprises will see a "marked difference" in Windows 8.1 enabling, it claims, higher productivity.
"I know we have thought quite a lot about how we can give enterprise users more administration and control, and the most popular questions in that area come from the Start screen," operating system principal program manager lead Chaitanya Sareen told Computing.
"That was the number one 'ask', and it was a careful balance of asking for the world, but we worked very closely with people out in the field to prioritise what were the important ones. You'll see a marked difference," he said.
Microsoft is also reportedly getting ready to launch a Surface 2, with the company having emailed press telling them to save the date of 23 September.