Microsoft has now publicly acknowledged that it’s finished core development on Windows 8.1, the free update for Windows 8 users.
The official announcement came by the way of a post on the Building Windows Blog earlier today, confirming reports that Microsoft had finished the operating system update that surfaced last Friday. While Microsoft is highlighting the smaller time its Windows Team had for developing Windows 8.1 – just ten months – today’s statement also includes more than a few things that make users question whether Microsoft is actually done creating the operating system.
For starters, although Microsoft says it’s done developing Windows 8.1, all users – including those who currently have the Windows 8.1 Preview installed – will have to wait to update their systems until October 18th. That’s a huge change for Microsoft, which has historically made newer updates available to its TechNet and MSDN membership services available for users to download and test on their hardware long before it arrives in stores.
The other issue is of huge consequence to both Windows 8.1 early adopters and end users. Although Microsoft has done its best to shore up the platform with new features to make both using the new Metro-style Start Screen and the Desktop interface more friendly for everyone, by most accounts, Windows 8’s biggest problem is that so far, a large cache of useful applications have yet to materialize on the platform. By forcing all users to wait for a final release of Windows 8.1, Microsoft is keeping application developers at a standstill.
That’s because without the final version of the operating system, developers can’t create applications using features like the upgraded Snap multitasking for Metro applications. While these applications can still be developed using Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 Preview, there could be changes in the final release that break apps. With this in mind, it’s very possible that when users updating to Windows 8.1 on October 18th, there won’t be a large number of apps that will take advantage of any of the operating systems new features.
According to Microsoft, it’s taking the extra time to work more closely with hardware manufacturers on integrating Windows 8.1 into their products for the fall and winter.
Regardless of when end-users get their hands on the update, or how many application Live Tiles they’ll be able to resize on the Start Screen, Windows 8.1 is a solid, free update the address many of the concerns users had about the direction Windows was going. That includes the return of the Start button on the taskbar and the ability boot directly into the Desktop interface.