Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 PC operating system will enter its RTM (release to manufacturing) phase in April of 2012, according to reports.

The news comes from ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, a usually reliable source for all things Microsoft and believed to have some high-level sources within the Redmond company.

Last I heard, Microsoft’s goal with Windows 8 was to release to manufacturing (RTM) its next Windows release around Q2/Q3 2012, after two beta releases, plus various preview/RC drops. I’d also heard that the plan was to RTM Windows 8 for x86, Windows 8 for ARM/SoC (system on a chip) and Windows 8 Server all at the same time.

I’m now hearing there’s a different timetable for Windows 8. I’ve received new information from a trusted source that Microsoft is actually on track to release to manufacturing all Windows 8 versions by April 2012.

Foley also claims to have information on Microsoft’s plans for Windows 8 betas – or should that be beta, singular?

Sources claim that Microsoft will be releasing just one beta of its next operating system, with a data of September 2011 being banded around. After that, the roadmap appears to include one RC (release candidate) build followed by the RTM.

I’ve also heard from my contact that Microsoft’s game plan is to deliver a beta build– not a pre-beta or preview — of Windows 8 around the time of the Build conference in mid-September. This allegedly will be the one and only Windows 8 beta, my contact said. In January 2012 or thereabouts, Microsoft will deliver a final Release Candidate (RC) test build of Windows 8, my source said. (I’m now thinking that January release is the one that leaked a while back from Dell.) And the next and final milestone after RC will be RTM.

Despite the odd leak of the latest build of Windows 8, we still know surprisingly little about what features and services will be part of the release. If September is slated as the time frame for the first beta, perhaps we’ll begin to learn just what Microsoft intends to do with the world’s most used operating system going forward.

The element of Windows 8 which we’re looking forward to the most is the Metro UI, which has been inspired from Windows Phone 7 and is now slowly latching on to Windows 8 itself. If you’ve used a Windows Phone 7 device lately then you can recall its tile based user interface, now imagine all that goodness in Windows 8!

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