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Windows Blue Now Officially 8.1, Will Be Free Update
Windows Blue Now Officially 8.1, Will Be Free Update

By Jennifer LeClaire
May 15, 2013 11:27AM

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"The fact that they are changing some User Interface elements is new. They clearly had to do it," said analyst Rob Enderle of the coming Windows 8.1 update. "Developing a predominantly touch user interface for a market that wasn't quite ready to convert to touch yet was too aggressive. They had to take a step back and make an adjustment and they are doing that."

Microsoft is trying to answer Windows 8 complainers with a free upgrade. The next Windows 8 update, formerly called Windows Blue, has officially been revealed as Windows 8.1. Any current Windows 8 or Windows RT owner will be able to download the software without charge.

Microsoft is sticking with its marketing line about Windows 8 being built for a world that blends work and personal life -- a world where we expect high touch experiences everywhere and a world that is always on the go and always connected. With Windows 8, Microsoft set out to redefine the market from PCs to mobile computing.

So far, it isn't working that way. But that didn't stop Redmond's Brandon LeBlanc from spinning out factoids about how the company's OEM partners have delivered Windows-based tablets, touch laptops, and convertibles before revealing the news about Windows 8.1.

A Positive Spin

LeBlanc pointed to new form factors like the Dell XPS 12, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, the Sony Vaio Tap 20, or the recently announced Acer Aspire R7. He also took a minute to brag about the Windows Store, which now has more than 70,000 apps. Then, he pushed out the news most Windows 8 users have been pining to hear: the operating system is evolving.

At the JP Morgan Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in Boston on Tuesday, Microsoft's Tami Reller shared with the audience that the update previously referred to as Windows Blue would be called Windows 8.1and would be a free update to Windows 8 for consumers through the Windows Store. And LeBlanc recapped it for the rest of us.

"During her remarks...Tami reiterated our goal of delivering continual updates to create a richer experience for Windows customers. Windows 8.1 is part of that and continues the journey we first began with Windows 8 last fall," LeBlanc wrote in a blog post. "Windows 8.1 will help us to deliver the next generation of PCs and tablets with our OEM partners and to deliver the experiences customers -- both consumers and businesses alike -- need and will just expect moving forward."

UI Changes Coming

But what exactly will Microsoft change? No word on the issue of the Start button, which many users want to see restored. In fact, there's no word on any of the specific upgrades. Reller did tell ABC News last week that Microsoft would "work to address the learning curve" from customers.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said he was not surprised the upgrade would be free, which is standard practice for existing customers.

"The fact that they are changing some User Interface elements is new. They clearly had to do it," Enderle told us. "Developing a predominantly touch user interface for a market that wasn't quite ready to convert to touch yet was too aggressive. They had to take a step back and make an adjustment and they are doing that. From what I am hearing, it should help a lot to alleviate the concern."

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