Windows 8.1 Countdown: Opening a New Can of Fresh Paint

Microsoft gives the OS update a coat of Fresh Paint as the partners line up support and work to fill out the ecosystem.

Windows 8.1 launch

Windows 8.1 will launch worldwide on Oct. 18 (Oct. 17 in the U.S.), and in a final push ahead of its release, Microsoft and its partners are trumpeting what the OS update has in store for users.

Proving that Windows isn't all business, Microsoft cracked open a can of Fresh Paint. Mimicking the tools that painters use to create art, the revamped Fresh Paint app will launch alongside Windows 8.1 and sooner for Windows Phone (Oct. 14).

Fresh Paint is a modern, canvas-and-paint-themed successor of sorts to Microsoft Paint, which lives on as a separate application. The free software is touch-optimized and runs as a Windows App, formerly known as Metro.

The new version builds on feedback that the company gleaned from a preview version that the company released in July. Describing the community's contributions as "tremendously exciting and helpful," in an Oct. 10 blog post, Ira Snyder, a general manager in Microsoft's Startup Business Group, said his team took the "feedback to heart" and has toiled "to deliver the highest quality, most realistic painting and drawing experience possible."

The result is a bevy of new painting tools that users can manipulate more intuitively, courtesy of a streamlined user interface. Additions include new filters, a graphite pencil set and a Bing-powered Inspire Me feature that pulls images for users to import. Watercolor rendering has been improved and stylus pressure tweaks have been implemented.

To help users turn their creations into physical, framed pieces of art, Microsoft announced a partnership with CanvasPop, a provider of canvas prints. "Fresh Paint is the first painting app to integrate CanvasPop’s new printing API," said Snyder. A new bilinear filtering and pixel-smoothing process enables the companies to "render very large prints even from small devices"

Partners Stepping Up

Microsoft's partners are also preparing for Windows 8.1's arrival. Futuremark announced support for Windows 8.1 in a PCMark 8 Professional Edition update for the popular benchmarking software suite.

"This update adds compatibility with Windows 8.1 and Internet Explorer 11, introduces new options for testing OpenCL, and adds detailed hardware monitoring graphs," Futuremark officials said in a statement. The update also "clears the way" for PCMark 8 Basic and Advanced, which the company plans to release within a few weeks.

On the hardware front, Toshiba unveiled three Z-Series Pro business laptops that feature Intel Haswell chips. The line includes the sleek 13-inch Portégé Z30 with an optional touch-screen, the 14-inch Tecra Z40 and the Tecra Z50 with a 15.6-inch screen.

Fujitsu, meanwhile, is getting a jump on Windows 8.1 with 15 devices that run the OS update, including laptops, workstations and tablets. Highlights include 12.5-inch and 10.1-inch ARROWS Tab slates and a 13.3-inch Lifebook with up to 28 hours of battery life. The Japanese PC maker also unveiled a 14-inch portable, the Lifebook U904/H, which the company claims is "the slimmest laptop in the world" and is also the first to include a compact palm-vein sensor as a biometric security feature.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...