Microsoft Windows 8.1 will become available to international markets on 18 October 2013, and a full version of the updated OS will be purchasable online through the Windows Store, and through Microsoft’s website.
For those who already own Windows 8, the update to Windows 8.1 is a free download.
Microsoft’s Senior Marketing Communications Manager, Brandon LeBlanc, was able to also reveal pricing for the United States, with the regular version retailing for $119.99 (approx R1180) while the Professional version will set users back $199.99 (approx R1960). Upgrade packs to the Professional version will be available for $99 (approx R980).
A Microsoft South Africa representative said that they are not sure of the pricing yet, however it is expected to remain similar to Windows 8.
Microsoft did not announce any changes or price alterations for their Office 2013 suite of productivity applications.
The operating system upgrade will be free to all users currently running Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. Windows 8.1 includes a number of user-experience changes and alterations to features included in the OS. Although it has been billed as a mere service pack by dissatisfied users, this is the biggest change to an operating system that I’ve seen since Windows XP Service Pack 1.
“This shift allows more flexibility for customers in specific technical scenarios and is in response to feedback we’ve received,” says Microsoft’s Senior Marketing Communications Manager, Brandon LeBlanc. “It will be easier for those consumers who want to build PCs from scratch, run Windows 8.1 in Virtual Machine (VM) environments, or run Windows 8.1 on a second hard drive partition.”
Windows 8.1 is able to be installed on top of Windows 8 and as an upgrade to Windows 7. With this edition Microsoft does not recommend upgrading from Windows Vista or XP and will not offer an option to do so. Users on Vista or XP will need to perform a clean install and re-install any programs they previously had.
Along with a major update to the desktop, Windows Phone 8.1 is also expected to launch at the same time, but no details are available about what changes Microsoft is planning for their mobile platform.
- New apps: Calculator, Alarm clock, Sound recorder, Windows Movie editor, Reading list, Food & Drink app, Health & Fitness app, dedicated Skydrive file manager
- Internet Explorer 11 – supports WebGL and new developer tools
- PC Settings app has more options, making Control Panel more redundant
- Windows PowerShell 4.0 now includes command-line options for managing the Start screen and more
- Windows Defender now includes a network intrusion detection system
- Windows Store 2.0 – revamped layout and better community integration
- Skype for Windows is now pre-installed with the Modern UI interface
Start Screen changes:
- Live Tiles can be replaced by an All Apps view
- New gestures to bring up All Apps menu
- Tiles can now be locked into place, preventing them from being moved and this can be controlled through Group Policy
- Tiles now have four sizes – small, medium, wide and large
- More customisation options for the Start menu with more colours and a customisable colour palette
- Your desktop background can now be seen in the Start menu, animated backgrounds are supported
- A Start button will always be visible in the bottom left corner of the screen
- The Start screen can be skipped, allowing Windows 8 to boot straight into the desktop
- Power Users menu gets new options including the ability to Shut down and restart without using the Charms menu
- Smaller screens now support Modern UI app snapping, landscape mode
New technology support:
- NFC printing is now supported
- Wi-Fi Direct printing is now supported
- 3D printer are natively supported with native APIs – no specialised drivers are required
- Miracast is now natively supported. This may also be included in Windows Phone 8.1 and may also work with the Xbox One
- Mobile broadband tethering is natively supported
- VPN connections may now be automatically triggered and Windows may launch specific VPNs for specific apps that require them
- DirectX 11.2 supporting tiled resources, new rendering options for graphics cards and other features
- Improved support for high-resolution monitors including pixel-doubling to increase sharpness