Microsoft’s Windows 8 has been steadily increasing in terms of market share over the last few months, and to date has more or less matched the sales of Windows 7 during its launch year. Microsoft is currently testing out the Windows 8.1 “Blue” upgrade pack which is generally available to the public through various avenues on the internet.
This will be a completely free update driven to users through the Windows store. Microsoft won’t charge anyone for it and will offer ISO images of a fully patched Windows 8.1 for users who’d prefer to do a full reformat and start afresh.
Windows 8.1 changes a lot of things for the OS, including bringing the Start button back (but not the one you remember) as well as offering a host of UI personalisation options, greater support for a wider gamut of devices, DirectX 11.2 baked into the OS, and support for a new generation of applications that use HSA technologies. There is also optimisations for tablets, improved resolution support, and a new portrait mode demonstrated in the gallery below.
The same changes that are made for the desktop will also apply to the mobile side of the market, with the Windows RT platform receiving the same updates and treatment. Microsoft has also confirmed that not only is DirectX 11.2 exclusive to Windows 8.1, it’s also going to be on the Xbox One as well, which means that most ports of games to Windows will likely be from the Xbox development environment once again.
Windows 8.1 is already out and can be previewed for free. Please note that installing the update on your system effectively nukes your install, as you’ll have to reformat your system when the update launches in October 2013, exactly a year after Windows 8 was launched. Based on observation, could Microsoft be trying to actively copy Apple’s software rollout schedule? Might they even charge money for its updates to the OS in future?
At the October launch, Microsoft is also expected to announce new versions of its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets, as well as a smaller range of tablets of the 8-inch variety.