Microsoft: Windows 8.1 to Usher in New Hardware
With the finalized code in hand, PC makers are gearing up to deliver new, more versatile Windows devices, including small tablets.It's official. Microsoft has finally announced that development on Windows 8.1 has reached a critical stage: release to manufacturing (RTM). Leaks related to an internal RTM build of the OS update first surfaced last week but were eclipsed by Steve Ballmer, who in a surprise announcement Friday, Aug. 23, revealed that he was retiring from Microsoft after 13 years as the company's CEO. On Aug. 27, the Windows team took a shot at reclaiming the spotlight. "We've hit an important milestone for Windows and for Microsoft—just 10 months after delivering on a bold, generational change in computing with Windows 8, our team is proud to share that we have started releasing Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 to our hardware partners," wrote Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of Windows Program Management in a Blogging Windows post. As an example of Microsoft's new rapid software release cadence, Windows 8.1 is a "significant update" that owes its expansive feature set and quick turnaround "to customer feedback and an unparalleled level of collaboration across product teams," added Leblond. The software includes a sweeping number of enhancements and user interface tweaks that largely remedy some of Windows 8's most unpopular features.
For instance, Microsoft heard the pleas of users that missed the Start button, a fixture since Windows 95, and restored it in the free OS update (sans the traditional Start Menu). It also offers boot-to-desktop options, allowing users without touch-screens and those that prefer the traditional desktop view to bypass the touch-enabled Live Tile interface.