Strange times. Indeed.

RTM, or "Release to Manufacturing" in the longer form, has generally meant that a software product is ready to be delivered to the customer. Sometimes called the "Gold" release, we've all become accustomed to the acronym, believing that public accessibility was just around the corner. But, things have changed. With the upcoming release of Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and a Windows Intune update, Microsoft is altering what RTM actually means.

Brad Anderson suggests that the change is…

…because this release was built and delivered at a much faster pace than past products, and because we want to ensure that you get the very highest quality product, we made the decision to complete the final validation phases prior to distributing the release.

Antoine Leblond says

In the past, the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone traditionally meant that the software was ready for broader customer use. However, it’s clear that times have changed, with shifts to greater mobility and touch as well as the blurring of work and personal lives. As such, we’ve had to evolve the way we develop and the time in which we deliver to meet customers with the experience they need, want and expect.

Antione goes on to say…

While our partners are preparing these exciting new devices we will continue to work closely with them as we put the finishing touches on Windows 8.1 to ensure a quality experience at general availability on October 18th.

So, while Windows 8.1 (and related releases) has been announced to be ready, it's not completely ready. Microsoft is leaving room to make some adjustments up until the true release.

So, it seems we need a new term (and acronym) in the software release life cycle.  Maybe we can blame Ballmer since it seems he's getting blamed for everything else wrong with Microsoft. I'm positive he'll be used as a scapegoat for the next 5 years or so.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Maybe we can come up something noteworthy and catchy.