Microsoft Confirms Plan to Ship Windows 8.1 to Partners Next Month

Microsoft to Release Windows 8.1 “Blue” to PC Makers in August

by Anton Shilov
07/08/2013 | 07:47 PM

At the Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston, Texas – Microsoft executives took the stage to discuss the company’s devices and services approach with it partners. Tami Reller, Windows chief marketing officer and chief financial officer, talked about how Windows influences all the other products and technologies the software giant has to offer.

 

Ms. Reller reiterated that the company has sold around 100 million Windows 8 licenses and revealed that Microsoft now has more than 20 million enterprise evaluations and that Windows 8 has logged 60 billion hours of use. Additionally, she mentioned that new customer activation continues at a consistent pace.

The high-ranking executive of Microsoft also announced that Windows 8.1 RTM [release to manufacturing] will be available for OEM partners in late August. This means OEMs will be able to get the RTM bits and begin preparing devices with Windows 8.1 just in time for the holidays. Windows 8.1 is an update that refines the vision of Windows 8 and makes it more comfortable to use.

Jensen Harris, another Microsoft executive, showed off some new features and functionality, including how Windows 8.1 is optimized to work great on small-form-factor devices and portrait view. He also demoed the Reading List app that lets customers to share articles from the web and content from other apps to read later which roams with you across your Windows devices through the cloud courtesy of SkyDrive. Mr. Harris also demoed for the first time new technology built into Windows 8.1 called Miracast that streams HD video and audio over Wi-Fi to another display like a TV. With Surface Pro, he essentially turned a TV into a whiteboard with the OneNote app.

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: