Another item to add to the busy month of October for Microsoft and that is the next version of Office reaching a very critical milestone in its development – the last one – Release to Manufacturing or RTM.

According to the official Office Blog, Kirk Koenigsbauer the Corporate Vice President of the Microsoft Office Division said the Office Engineering Team signed off on the RTM build this afternoon.

This milestone means the coding and testing phase of the project is complete and we are now focused on releasing the new Office via multiple distribution channels to our consumer and business customers.

This is the most ambitious release of Office we’ve ever done. It spans the full family of Office applications, servers and cloud services. The new Office has a fresh, touch friendly design that works beautifully on Windows 8 and unlocks modern scenarios in social, reading, note-taking, meetings and communications. We are proud to achieve this milestone and are eager to deliver this exciting release to our customers.

General Availability of the new Office is expected in the first quarter of 2013 and customers who purchase Microsoft Office 2010 beginning on 19 October will receive the new Office for free when it becomes available.

There will be early access to the final bits for some customers so they can start ramping up in preparation for its release:

  • We will begin rolling out new capabilities to Office 365 Enterprise customers in our next service update, starting in November through general availability.
  • Volume Licensing customers with Software Assurance will be able to download the Office 2013 applications as well as other Office products including SharePoint 2013, Lync 2013 and Exchange 2013 through the Volume Licensing Service Center by mid-November. These products will be available on the Volume Licensing price list on December 1.
  • IT professionals and developers will be able to download the final version via their TechNet or MSDN subscriptions by mid-November.

Check out our This is not Your Father’s Microsoft Office: Preview of 2013 Version Now Available post for details on what the new version is bringing to the table. You may recall that this will be the first version of Microsoft Office offered with a subscription plan.