Reversing course, Microsoft announced today that MSDN and TechNet subscribers can download and install the final, RTM versions of Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2. This comes well ahead of the October general availability date the company previously announced. Microsoft also said that a near-final release candidate (RC) version of Visual Studio 2013 is immediately available.

"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," Microsoft's Steven Guggenheimer wrote in a bit of understatement. "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."

I'll resist the urge to chime in with the obvious answer to that last issue—OK, how about "immediately"?—and focus on the news. Which is this:

Windows 8.1 RTM. TechNet and MSDN subscribers can now download the final, shipping version of Windows 8.1. This explains the timing of my Windows 8.1 Review, which you can read while downloading.

Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM. TechNet and MSDN subscribers will get Windows 8.1 Enterprise later this month, Microsoft says.

Windows Server 2012 RTM. TechNet and MSDN subscribers can also download the final, shipping versions of Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Storage Server and Windows Server 2012 R2 Foundation.

Visual Studio 2013 Release Candidate. Anyone can download a near-final Visual Studio 2013 RC, Visual Studio Express 2013 RC for Web, Visual Studio 2013 RC for Windows Desktop or Visual Studio 2013 Team Foundation Server Express 2013 RC from the Visual Studio web site. (Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2013 Preview for Windows has not been updated.)

Good news!