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Microsoft Corp. said on Tuesday it had hit an important milestone for Windows 8.1 operating system. The company has started releasing Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 to its hardware partners. Microsoft partners are finalizing work on their Windows 8.1-based products, which will be available starting from October 18, 2013. Microsoft expects the family of devices to include tablets, lightweight notebooks, versatile 2-in-1s and other.

“In many ways, this marks a new day at Microsoft, reflecting a number of rapid release firsts. Thanks, in part, to customer feedback and an unparalleled level of collaboration across product teams, Windows 8.1 is a significant update. We have delivered in a very short time an update to the OS that will bring an even greater unified experience for our customers. As we consider the code we just handed off, and the new intuitive and fluid computing experience it provides - anytime, anywhere, across all devices – we are confident we made the right bet in continuing our vision and following through on our commitment to rapid innovation and responsive engineering,” said Antoine Leblond, a spokesman for Microsoft in a statement.

Starting at 12:00am on October 18th in New Zealand (that is 4:00am October 17th in Redmond, Washington), Windows 8.1 will begin rolling out worldwide as a free update for consumers on Windows 8 through the Windows Store. Windows 8.1 will also be available at retail and on new devices starting on October 18th by market. So mark your calendars!

Windows 8.1 brings many improvements in areas like personalization, Internet Explorer 11, search which is powered by Bing, built-in apps including a few new ones, an improved Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity with SkyDrive and much more. 

Among other things, Windows 8.1 returns Start button to the bottom left corner of the desktop. What is important is that when clicked onto, the Start button trigger the new Start screen when clicked, and not the legacy Start menu. Once the button is clicked, it will remain displayed on the desktop going forward; those, who use hardware Start button on keyboards, will get Windows 8 Start screen.


Screenshot originally published by Supersite for Windows

In Windows 8.1, users will be able to substitute the stock Start screen with the All Apps view, a set of tile-like icons for every installed program, but no live updating functionality. Users will also be able to arrange the icons by usage, allowing the most commonly used apps to be first. This view is the closest it is possible to get to the Windows 7 Start Menu, albeit it will be full-screen, not a list.

As expected, Windows 8.1 will allow to boot directly to desktop and skip the Windows 8 Start Screen. 

 
Screenshot originally published by Supersite for Windows

Microsoft Windows 8.1 will be delivered as a free and seamless update to Windows 8 and to Windows RT, which means that customers today who have Windows 8 or who plan to buy a new device will get all the advantages of Windows 8.1.

Microsoft will first demonstrate Windows 8.1 updates at Build conference June 26th in San Francisco. A public preview of Windows 8.1 will be available for anyone to download at that point.

Previously it was reported that Microsoft was to return Start menu and allow skip the Metro UI Start screen with the Windows 8.1 update. In addition, it is projected that the “Blue” updates will improve battery life on new-generations of microprocessors and will possible bring other performance advantages. While the full picture of Blue updates remains generally unfinished, the enhancements of Windows 8.1 over Windows 8 have already been published:

  • New split-screen App options.
  • Improved modern UI PC settings.
  • New tile sizes.
  • New search interface.
  • Enhanced SkyDrive.
  • Internet Explorer 11.
  • Swipe up from Start Screen to access list of apps.
  • More personalization options.
  • Picture frame mode.
  • New gestures.
  • New Apps: Calculator, Alarm, Sound Recorder, Movie Moments (video editing application).

Tags: Microsoft, Windows, Windows 8, Windows RT, Blue

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