Windows 8.1: Signed, sealed, but not yet delivered

Windows 8.1 is done, but unless you work for a major manufacturer, you'll have to wait until later this year to get your hands on it. 

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    Windows 8.1 – the OS formerly known as 'Blue' – is set for an Oct. 18 launch.
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On Oct. 18, Windows 8.1 will officially go live. 

In the meantime, today Microsoft announced that it had started doling out the new software to its official hardware partners – the first step in bringing the latest iteration of Windows online. In the past, the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) launch – also known as "going gold" – meant early public access to the operating system, but this time, Microsoft decided to do things differently.

"[I]t’s clear that times have changed, with shifts to greater mobility and touch as well as the blurring of work and personal lives," Microsoft reps wrote. "As such, we’ve had to evolve the way we develop and the time in which we deliver to meet customers with the experience they need, want and expect. We’ve had to work closer to our hardware partners than ever before."  

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In other words: No matter how deep your Windows geekdom goes, unless you work for a Microsoft hardware partner, you'll have to cool your jets until mid-October. 

Over at CNET, Mary Jo Foley says the decision to withhold early access to Windows 8.1 may have something to do with the new way that Microsoft does business. 

"Instead of spending 2.5 to 3 years planning, developing and testing a new Windows build, Microsoft did all that in 10 months this time around," she writes. "Consequently, the company will be patching and updating Windows 8.1 and all the bundled apps that come with it (Mail, Calendar, the core Office apps, the Bing consumer apps, IE 11) right up until the launch. Microsoft will push updates to the whole shebang just before customers can get their hands on the final bits." 

Among the improvements included in Windows 8.1 are more personalized home and lock screens, a new search feature, and the return of the Start button. 

In related news, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently announced he would retire within the next 12 months. 


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