Microsoft confirmed Tuesday that it has begun releasing Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 to hardware partners, signaling the company's final dash toward the OS update's October 18 release.

Thanks to customer feedback and "an unparalleled level of collaboration across product teams," Windows 8.1 has reached the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage "in a very short time," said Antoine Leblond, Microsoft's corporate VP of Windows Program Management, in a statement. He noted that the upgrade will reach OEMs only 10 months after Windows 8 launched, adding that manufacturers will soon offer new Windows devices that range from "the smallest tablets to the most lightweight notebooks to versatile 2-in-1s, as well as industry devices designed for business."

Leblond's tone is notable in that it echoes so many of the strategic points outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer has made throughout the last year: Windows must offer a unified experience that spans devices, Microsoft is establishing a more collaborative culture to facilitate this goal, trends toward consumerization and mobility mean Windows updates will have to arrive much more rapidly than in the past, and so on.