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I am absolutely puzzled here:

What is the difference between RTM, GA(Gerneral Availability) and final GOLD version?

For example for Windows 8:

  • RTM - Microsoft sends this version to ASUS, Acer, DELL, HP etc. so that these manufacturers can intsall the system on the notebooks which they are going to ship to the stores to be sold?

  • General Availability - Microsoft found some bugs, repaired them and now this repaired version can be purchased by customers who have Windows 7 and want to buy and install Windows 8 on theirs machines?

  • GOLD - Microsoft found other bugs again, they repaired them and now they pronounce this version to be the final version that is not going to be changed ever?

Then, maybe after 6 or 9 months they release Service Pack 1 which will repair new bugs? Then, they can relase SP2, SP3, etc.

Or there is absolutely no difference between RTM, GA and GOLD? (exactly the same software, bit by bit...) The only difference is in the date when the software is available.

  • RTM - manufacturers like Dell, HP get it
  • GA - anybody who wants to buy the DVD with the system can buy it
  • GOLD - even the prisoners and people in North Korea or Papua New Guinea can buy it since it is widespread in all parts of the world.
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Wikipedia gives a good explanation about these terms mean.

  • Release to manufacturing (RTM) means that the software is complete and physical discs, packaging, etc. are being manufactured for the product, with the product possibly having reached a customer(s).
  • General availability (GA) means that the software is generally available to consumers, once the vendor has completed commercialization of the product.
  • Gold may refer to a more current version of the software with bugfixes or possibly new features, but can also refer to the RTM stage or GA stage.

Here's a diagram (source): Software development stages

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The difference usually depends on the company that releases the software. RTM and GA usually mean the same (RTM stands for Release to Manufacturing / Release to Marketing / Release to Masses ). Gold is typically a slightly newer version of the software that may include a set of patches or maybe even service packs that users of RTM/GA would have to individually download. A Gold release may also include some extra features or addons that earlier releases didn't have.

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