Users can expect Windows 8.1, the free update that’s designed to make the Windows 8 operating system more useable for those with or without a touchscreen, on October 17th.
That’s according to a new post on the company’s Windows Blog outlet just this morning. The update will actually be distributed in two phases. First the digital download of the standalone update will go live in the Windows Store on October 17th at 3:00 am Eastern Standard Time. At that point users across the world will be able to download the update and take advantage of all the upgraded features it has to offer.
Immediately after the digital release, users will be able to purchased actual physical boxed product keys for Windows 8.1. These copies will replace the copies of Windows 8 that are sold in retail stores today. Presumably, the update will also come pre-installed on all Windows devices that currently come with Windows 8 on that date as well.
Microsoft is also using this opportunity to showcase some of the machines that users can purchase today without the fear of not being able to get the update to Windows 8.1. Although the post goes out of its way to single out machines like the Microsoft’s own Surface line of products and more, in reality absolutely any Windows 8 or Windows RT device will be able to upgrade to Windows 8.1.
Windows 8.1 includes a huge assortment of new features. With the ability to restore the Start Button and the option to boot directly into the Desktop environment, the company is signaling that it’s now ready for consumers to use Windows 8 the best way they see fit. That’s in stark contrast to the hard line approach the company took towards the operating system last fall.
That being said, it’s also made it clear that this update is all about strengthening the foundations of the Start Screen and the applications that power it. Every built-in application has received a bevy of new features and design updates, and just this week screenshots of a new Mail app proved that Microsoft is actually turning to Windows Phone for inspiration in making Windows 8 more usable.
According to the latest information, users who have already installed the Widows 8.1 Preview on their laptop or desktop will have to reinstall all of their applications following the final version’s release.