Windows 8.1 is ready to go, won’t launch until October 17th

Microsoft has put the finishing touches on Windows 8.1, and the software’s ready to hit the streets. But it won’t actually do that for another month and a half.

What Microsoft is doing right now is releasing Windows 8.1 to its hardware partners, which means that on October 18th you’ll be able to buy a new PC with the software pre-installed. You’ll be able to download the free updated to Windows 8 or purchase a new copy from the internet starting a day earlier, on October 17th, 2013.

Windows 8.1

In the past, Microsoft has typically made new versions of Windows available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers as soon as it they were released to manufacturing. That’s not happening this time — subscribers to those Microsoft programs will get access at the same time as everyone else on October 18th.

While Windows 8.1 is already starting to go out to hardware partners, The Verge reports that the company expects to continue releasing updates with bug fixes and new features in the coming weeks, which suggests that the RTM release may not really be the final version of Windows 8.1.

But arguably there’s no such thing as a final version of an operating system these days. Developers constantly push out minor updates to address bugs and security flaws over the life cycle of an operating system like Windows.

Windows 8.1 is an unusual product from Microsoft. It’s launch comes just about a year after the introduction of Windows 8. In the past the company has taken 2-3 years, or sometimes much longer to release a new operating system.

Of course, Windows 8.1 is a relatively minor update. It still looks and works a lot like Windows 8 and supports both apps that run in traditional desktop mode and the new “Modern” user interface.

Some notable changes include the return of the Start Button (but not the actual Start Menu — the button just brings up the Start Screen), better support for tablets and other devices with displays smaller than 10 inches, support for more than 2 Modern apps running on the same screen, improved multi-display support, and the inclusion of Skype.

  • George

    Windows 8.1, Yawn. Windows Phone, Zzz.

  • clkeagle

    I don’t see this capturing any more of the enterprise marketplace than 8.0 did. Makes me wonder if we’re going to see a return to different consumer/enterprise operating systems, like back in the 98SE/ME vs 2000 days.

    • BoloMKXXVIII

      Good question. Many businesses are still deploying Windows7 so we won’t know the answer for a while. If Microsoft sees business are not adopting Windows8 in the next 3 years or so they may come out with a “business only” edition.

      • CyberGusa

        Most businesses were still using XP up till just after MS announced they were finally going to terminate support after April 2014 last year… Windows 7 rise to dominance is only about a year old now and it has been out for over 3 years!

        So looking towards business for quick changes to show acceptance of a new OS should be tempered by the fact these companies don’t like to update unless they really have to and often not until at least a few years have passed first…

        While Windows 8 is a evolving product anyway, the 8.1 update is just the first of many that will come out annually… remember, they’re adopting a similar upgrade model as Apple has been using for OSX and we’ll see incremental updates annually… So in just a few years Windows 8 can be a significantly different product…

    • Keith

      Win8 isn’t exactly a hit with consumers either. The main reason it sells at all is that OEMs preload it on new hardware and offer no alternative. That doesn’t exactly make the users happy but they’re captive. This stunt of changing how Windows works may backfire as consumers find it less trouble to turn to Chrome OS notebooks or other alternatives.

      • CyberGusa

        Doubtful, many of those alternatives also impose very different ways of doing things!

        It doesn’t make much sense to complain about change and then go for a alternative that also forces you to change!

        Really, Canonical is pushing a similar major change with Unity UI for Ubuntu and people complained about it too but they’re still pushing it anyway because they too want to usable on more than just desktop devices!

        Change to Apple’s OSX? You face a similar full screen menu there too!

        There are over 600 different Linux distros not only because there are many ways to optimize a OS but because it’s literally impossible to make a UI that appeals to everyone!

        While nothing is stopping anyone from customizing Windows like every one of the last few previous version has been by 3rd parties…

        Don’t like the Start Screen, there’s 3rd party alternatives that are both free and pay for that you can choose from.

        While, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore that aside from the complaints about the UI that the OS itself is actually an improvement over Windows 7.

        It’s lighter and easier to run, it will boot faster and supports the latest technology (3D printing just being one example) better, the ModernUI allows it to be usable on non-desktop systems that traditional Windows never worked well on before, Modern UI apps means apps that can be used on a wide range of devices without changing OS and getting multiple versions of the same or similar apps, multi-tasking on mobile devices is actually better, security is never perfect but it’s still better, things like Hyper V being standard gives more options than ever before, multi-tasking on multiple monitors is easier without needing 3rd party utilities like Windows 7 needed, better battery efficiency that takes advantage of new hardware like Haswell in ways Windows 7 can’t, etc.

        The list is extensive but up till now has been largely ignored because of complaints over the UI and menu choices.

        But that’s all starting to ebb as people actually get a chance to use Windows 8 instead of just hearing about it.

        Sure, W8 still needs improving and they’ll likely continue to improve it. The 8.1 update is just the first of what will be a annual release. So just like Apple’s OSX, we’re going to see fairly significant changes every year and not have to wait for the next Windows version to see it happen.

        While, again, nothing is stopping people from customizing W8 to their liking. Truly want nothing to do with Modern UI, then just disable it!

        Reality is no OS is perfect and never will be, and that means people will always have to do at least some of the work to make the OS work the way they want to… especially because very few of us could ever agree on the “right” way of doing things!

        People also tend to have nostalgic distorted views of older versions of Windows… they each had their issues and things we had to either change or adapt to and they weren’t accepted right away either… XP took over 3 years to become dominant, ditto for Windows 7… things like that often aren’t remembered but should be to keep things in context…

        Windows 8 may be the most major change in awhile but it’s trying to prepare for the probable future of computing that like it or not will not be the same as what we’ve grown used to!

        Whether it’ll succeed remains to be seen but it’s hardly the worse attempt ever made… most previous attempts at this sort of major change for a OS that can work on both traditional and newer devices usually flop even before they get officially released… So at worse there’s still a chance for it…

  • Arrdee

    So you get to the Win8.1 Desktop, click Start, and it STOPS (throws you back into the RT-ghetto you’d just escaped). How clever. “Start” stops you from using the Desktop. Should be labeled properly, sheesh.

    • CyberGusa

      No, it just means you get a full screen menu… just like on other OS like OSX… considering how many devices are using small screens that a easier to view menu can easily be considered a improvement versus one that is only useful on large screens.

      Also, you’re ignoring that they give you better transitions now by letting you use the same desktop wallpaper to make the transition seem like it’s just floating on the desktop and you can choose to view the All Apps menu instead of the Start Screen if you prefer.

      There’s also ways of putting most of the Start Menu back on the desktop through the Taskbar, while the Start Button right click menu not only gives you the power user menu options but also returns the shutoff/reboot option for quick access again.

      So think of it as a compromise, they’re not going to cripple W8’s ability to be usable on mobile devices (modern UI is key to that) but at least they adjusted it to better help desktop users.

      While most OS don’t provide alternative UI layouts! Aside from theme packs neither did previous Windows releases! So, nothing is stopping you from customizing with 3rd party apps like most people who must have the OS work the way they want it to have been doing for over a decade!

      • Arrdee

        You suggest people just “embrace the pain?” All that fiddling and shoehorning in 3rd party crutches has to be done each release though right? So if you get Win8.1 sorta kinda working 18 months later 8.2 rolls out and you start from scratch?

      • CyberGusa

        No, 3rd party aren’t crutches and you won’t have to start over with every new incremental update for W8!

        Besides, I’m only suggesting people start acting like adults and stop complaining about minor things they can just fix themselves!

        Really, like I already explained 3rd party solutions are normal for most software that people want to use their way instead of the company way!

        Virtually no one provides much in the way of multiple options, it’s not practical for most to even try as it only leads to massive bloatware that most people don’t wind up using.

        While add ons from either the OS maker or 3rd party add up to the same thing to end users!

        So what’s usually practical is for them to focus on one design, especially if that design has advantages they want to push… Like being able to use the same OS on new devices that the old OS serious sucked on!

        Same reason Canonical is pushing Unity on Ubuntu, Google started to give Chrome a desktop so it’s not just a browser OS, and Android has developed both a phone and tablet UI optimizations, and Apple has already starting porting features from iOS to OSX!

        While letting 3rd parties provide the alternatives for those that want them!

        Does everyone like standard Android, or the custom versions from Carriers and phone makers? No, which is why the 3rd party custom ROMs are popular!

        While Open Source desktop Linux is pretty much rife with 3rd party solutions maintained by the linux community… virtually no distro ever goes untouched and exactly how the developers designed it for every user!

        Even Windows has a long history of 3rd party solutions… just because you may not have needed it before doesn’t mean others haven’t… Many of these 3rd party providers have been running successful companies providing these kinds of utilities and apps for well over a decade!

        Again, no OS is ever perfect for everyone. There will always be compromises but the thing that has always helped Windows succeed is MS doesn’t stop 3rd party solutions!

        So it’s fine if you don’t like the standard setup, just change it to the way you’d prefer it to work! It’s not hard and you only need to do it once for setting up! Just like setting up accounts, and other preferences with a new system!

  • Paul

    Don’t care about trivial things like the Start button and a full screen vs menu driven Start menu.

    Does 8.1 bring back the ability to modify/remove network locations and WiFi access points with a GUI? Can Connected Standy not be triggered when turning the screen off? Has NFS support come back? Are there up arrows on the on screen keyboard?

    • CyberGusa

      Well, this is what I know so far…

      NFS support was always available for the Enterprise edition but it looks like they’re bringing that support to regular Windows for the 8.1 update … at least for setting up printers, along WiFi Direct printing setup as well, and 3D printers and Miracast Support…

      Connected Standby is suppose to be improved with 8.1, but I don’t know if it fixes the issue with entering the state automatically with the screen off… despite the question being asked on numerous sites, no one seems to have answered it and I’m still waiting on final release before I try it myself…

      W8 always allowed managing network locations through the GUI,

      http://www.7tutorials.com/how-manage-wireless-network-connections-profiles-windows-8

      Most of it is just automatic but as the link shows there’s still the manual way of doing so without going to the command line and typing out commands as the MS support page suggest doing (MS must really improve those support pages)…

      While there are two OSKs for Windows 8, the original desktop OSK.exe is still there and provides the num pad and all arrow keys!

      The default is just the Touch OSK, which of course is optimized for touch screens… Aside from reports of child keys (pop up alternate characters, etc) and similar enhancements for 8.1, there haven’t been any mentions of adding up and down arrow keys or whether they fixed the other issue with the OSK in that it doesn’t auto pop up on the desktop, only for the Modern UI but hopefully someone will report on it or I’ll just mentions it after I try out the final 8.1 release… whichever happens first…

      • Mo

        How do you remove network profiles that you aren’t currently connected to?

      • CyberGusa

        There’s always the command prompt if you don’t see it on the default list… The MS Support page covers that method but if you prefer the GUI and find the previous link insufficient for your needs then you can try a app like…

        http://www.thewindowsclub.com/wifi-profile-manager-windows-8

      • Mo

        Was hoping for it to be built in like Windows 7…

      • CyberGusa

        The command prompt is built in, just not a GUI method, MS just decided to automate the process of network management for Windows 8… So, basically, the end user isn’t supposed to be bothered with worrying about connection management.

        Every time you use a connection and choose what to connect to and what to disconnect from you’re setting the user profile for your connection preferences and prioritizing connections.

        This defines many of the UI changes for Windows 8, both the good and bad…

        This is mainly a issue for those who need more refined control, like for connecting to Enterprise level networks that need to meet certain custom requirements…

        Hopefully, MS addresses this with 8.1 but can’t tell from the preview and we’ll have to wait on the RTM review to be sure… They do mention improvements like including options to support auto connecting VPN, WiFi Direct printer setup option, Miracast support, etc. but it remains to be seen if they improved the GUI method of managing the networks.

        So, if that first link doesn’t help, and you don’t want to rely on the command prompt method, then for now you can follow this next link for deleting networks, regardless of whether they’re in range or not…

        http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/20085-wireless-network-profile-delete-windows-8-a.html

        While that app I provided a link for in my last reply may be a add on but it’s freeware and easy to run and use…

        Unfortunately, there’s a lot of things that add on utilities are often better at than Windows defaults… Windows 7 for example needs 3rd party utilities to mount ISOs, to add the taskbar to multiple screens for multi-monitor usage, to transfer files faster and more reliably, etc.

        Windows 8 actually prevents the need for some of those as it natively allows mounting ISOs, natively supports taskbar on multiple screens, etc.

        But it also brings changes that makes some things harder… but mainly just means you need different types of 3rd party utilities to compensate… No OS is perfect after all…

      • Mo

        Also, how do change WiFi priorities and WiFi/network locations and profiles when they’re not in range or connected to?

      • CyberGusa

        Should still be shown on the list, just listed as not in range…

      • Mo

        Nope. Past Ethernet and WiFi APs not in range don’t show up. They show up for you? Is there a setting?

    • Mo

      Hopefully 8.1 automatically connects to WiFi access points when they’re in range while in Connected Standby. Without this, Connected Standby isn’t that useful.

  • Johnny Charles Grinter

    When is 8.1 released in the UK?