Microsoft Wraps Up Windows 8.1 for the Holidays
Microsoft confirmed on Tuesday that it has finished its work on Windows 8.1, the first significant update to the operating system since it was released last year.
The revised software, which will be available for download and on new machines on Oct. 18, is designed to address some criticisms of Windows 8.
Among the changes, Microsoft is adding back a start screen, improving the mail app and aiming to make the shift from modern apps and classic Windows software less jarring. Microsoft is also adding a key Office component — the Outlook mail and calendar app — to the version of Windows RT that will ship in conjunction with Windows 8.1.
The software maker had said it expected to finalize the update and deliver it to computer makers by late August.
The big question now is whether these updates will be enough to juice PC sales, which failed to see a bounce from Windows 8, and have continued to face pressure this year as consumers gravitate to tablets and other mobile devices. Microsoft has felt this in its overall Windows business as well as in particularly slow sales of its own Surface RT tablet.
One thing that Microsoft is doing differently with Windows 8.1 is not releasing it first to business customers and other special interest groups ahead of its general release. Typically, large businesses, developers and others get access to new software shortly after it is finalized.
With Windows 8.1, though, all groups of customers will have to wait until Oct. 18, Microsoft said.
“In the past, the release-to-manufacturing milestone traditionally meant that the software was ready for broader customer use,” Microsoft said. “However, it’s clear that times have changed, with shifts to greater mobility and touch as well as the blurring of work and personal lives.”