In reversal, Microsoft gives snarling developers Win 8.1 RTM to chew on

windows_8.1_logo-100052083-smallAfter developers and IT pros pelted Microsoft with complaints, the company has backtracked and decided to grant them access to the latest Windows 8.1 build instead of making them wait until mid-October.

When Microsoft sent to PC and tablet makers two weeks ago the latest pre-release version of Windows 8.1 — the so-called RTM (release to manufacturers) build — it broke with tradition and kept developers and IT pros out of the loop, enraging them.

Microsoft said at the time that these two camps would get access to the final version of Windows 8.1 when it starts shipping commercially on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18.

It justified the incendiary decision by saying that it had to collaborate closer than ever with its hardware partners because the OS has to work with a much broader variety of devices.

“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,” Microsoft official Antoine Leblond wrote two weeks ago in the blog post announcing Windows 8.1 RTM.

But in blog comments, Twitter messages and other social media channels, developers and IT pros growled, saying that this wouldn’t give them time to test their applications, tools and IT environments, possibly causing chaos for them.

“How are IT pros and partners supposed to evaluate 8.1 now and perhaps change scripts/applications/whatever as needed?,” wrote one person in a comment to Leblond’s blog post.

On Monday, in a surprise reversal, Microsoft announced that it has changed its mind, and that subscribers to MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) and TechNet now have access to Windows 8.1 RTM.

“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,” wrote MIcrosoft official Steven Guggenheimer in a blog post Monday.

The move is a “no-brainer,” according to IDC analyst Al Gillen. “This community is one of Microsoft’s points of entry to corporate IT,” he said via email.

Another IDC analyst, Al Hilwa, said that keeping the code from developers would have harmed them and Microsoft as well. “It does not materially help Microsoft or anyone to delay adoption,” he said via email.