Microsoft Has Announced the Release of Windows 8.1

Microsoft has recently announced that they will be releasing Windows 8.1. They haven’t announced when they’ll be releasing the final version of it, but a preview version will be released on the 26th of June.

What’s significant about this?

The first thing that’s important about this is that it’s the first time Microsoft has released a point release for a version of its operating system since it released Windows 3.1 all the way back in April of 1992. That’s just over 21 years ago!

There are some changes that will be introduced in Windows 8.1. The most important of these is the introduction of a Start button that is similar to what has been used in previous versions of Windows. One significant difference with the Start button in 8.1, however, is that upon being clicked it won’t open a start menu like in older versions of Windows. It will open the Start Screen, a.k.a. the Metro interface, instead.

The changes introduced in the Start Screen aren’t huge changes, but they will change how users are able to use it. Users will be able to select from four options for how large app tiles are on the Start Screen, rather than the current selection of two app tile sizes.

Another big change is the introduction of a boot-to-desktop option. Some users have been quite annoyed that they can’t boot straight to the desktop in Windows 8, so this change may be quite a welcome one for some users.

The lock screen has also seen some changes. According to The Verge:

You can now accept Skype calls while the PC is locked, or trigger the camera and take photos. There is also an option to use a Photo Frame mode that takes pictures from your computer, SkyDrive, and Windows Phone to display a collage of images.

This is quite an important change, because it makes Windows 8.1 more like mobile phone operating systems. Given that Windows 8, specifically the RT version, was a move towards a mobile OS from Microsoft, this probably won’t come as a surprise.

According to TechRadar, the security features of Windows 8.1 will also be improved through a range of new or upgraded security features. It’s definitely a good thing that Microsoft takes the security of Windows so seriously, but exactly how effective these security measures will be is yet to be seen.

There are also some changes to the search charm, SkyDrive and Internet Explorer, as well as some other smaller changes. The Verge published an article that I believe summarises these changes nicely, so I won’t summarise them here, as they’re fairly minor changes. ExtremeTech also has an article summarising the changes that will be introduced with Windows 8.1, as well as pricing and other information.

Will Windows 8.1 be worth the upgrade?

All current users of Windows 8 will be able to upgrade to 8.1 free of charge, according to the Windows team on Twitter. Whether or not 8.1 will be worth the upgrade does depend on each user and their preferences, but I think that some of the changes that have been announced are quite nice, especially the changes that have been announced for the Start Screen.

At the moment, it’s hard to determine whether or not Windows 8.1 will be worth the upgrade, as there may be some big changes to 8.1 between now and when it’s released. However, based on what I’ve seen about it as it currently stands, I think it will be worth the upgrade.

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