The Windows 8.1 Spring Update, which will include features meant to appease keyboard and mouse traditionalists, has been released to manufacturing (RTM) and should be ready for public consumption next month.
"Microsoft has released Windows 8.1 Update 1 to manufacturing, according to my sources, as well as the known Windows leaker WZor," reported ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley. According to WZor, the RTM build was compiled on Feb. 21 and signed off by Microsoft a few days later on Feb. 26. "Microsoft's next step is to provide the RTM code to OEMs for preloading on new machines," added Foley.
On Twitter, Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott revealed that the new build of the operating system should arrive in developers' hands in time for the upcoming Build 2014 conference. Thurrott (@thurrott) tweeted on Feb. 27: "Windows 8.1 Update 1 will hit MSDN on April 2, Windows Update on April 8"
Build also kicks off on April 2 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The timing suggests that Microsoft will use the event to officially announce the update's release, in addition to providing the first details of Windows 9, code-named "Threshold."
On April 8, the company's Windows Update servers will begin to propagate the code to end users. That date also coincides with another big event: the end of the Windows XP era.
Microsoft will end support for Windows XP on April 8, 12 years after its release. The company has been steadily turning up the volume on its campaign to get users to switch to newer versions of the operating system. Or better yet, purchase a Windows 8.1 system.
Windows XP, despite its age, still remains popular among millions of users. According to the latest statistics compiled by Web analytics firm Net Applications (as of February 2014), Windows XP accounts for 29.53 percent of the desktop operating system market. Only Windows 7 is more popular with 47.31 percent.
The Windows 8.1 Spring Update may provide XP users with a smoother transition to Microsoft's latest OS, which has been met with criticisms that it emphasized touch at the expense of the classic desktop experience. "We have a number of targeted UI improvements that keep our highly satisfying touch experience intact, but that make the UI more familiar and more convenient for users with mouse/keyboard," announced Microsoft's Windows mobility chief Joe Belfiore on Feb. 23.
The move suggests that Microsoft is seeking to strike a better balance between tablet and desktop work styles. "Don't worry, we still LOVE and BELIEVE IN touch … but you'll like how much more smooth and convenient these changes make mouse and keyboard use," added Belfiore.