On July 8th, Microsoft officials announced Windows 8.1, codenamed “Blue” will be released to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in late August 2013. Microsoft released Windows 8.1 for public preview on June 26th during its Build Conference. However, there are no more preview/test builds scheduled, and the next stop is RTM (release to manufacturing).
Microsoft will make Windows 8.1 available to all Windows 8 and Windows RT users as a free upgrade from the Windows Store. While some Microsoft watchers have predicted that RTM and general availability of the Windows 8.1 parts won’t happen at the same time, other sources say otherwise.
New devices that are preloaded with the Windows 8.1 parts probably won’t be available until late September/early October, but general availability of the Windows 8.1 parts won’t be held back that long. Hopefully, users will be able to get the 8.1 parts about the same time, or very shortly after RTM.
Windows 8.1, which introduces support for smaller 7- and 8- inch tablets, proves that Microsoft is moving towards a more rapid delivery schedule with their Windows releases, as opposed to delivering a “big-bang” release every two or three years.
The release of Windows 8.1 is very important for Microsoft because Windows 8, in its original form, was actually optimized for 10-inch tablets only. However, last year, the market showed interest in it for desktops, laptops, and smaller 7- and 8- inch tablets. As a result, Windows 8 struggled to provide this and understandably flopped. By allowing OEMs to produce small-screen, low-rest tablets, as well as making the desktop experience less painful, Microsoft is hoping that Windows 8.1 can finally inspire wide-scale adoption.