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Windows 'Blue' Is Officially Windows 8.1, Will Be Free Update

The forthcoming Windows 8 update code-named Windows "Blue" is now officially called Windows 8.1, confirmed Microsoft's Tami Reller on Tuesday.

In addition, Windows 8.1 will be a free download from the Windows Store for Windows 8 and Windows RT users, according to Reller, Microsoft's chief marketing officer and the Windows Division's chief financial officer. Reller made the remarks at the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.

"Windows 8.1 will advance the bold vision that we set forward with Windows 8 to deliver great PCs and tablets with an experience that does allow you to simply do more," she said. "Also for enterprise customers, we see Windows 8.1 giving them that much more confidence to be able to deploy Windows 8 devices, whether that's tablets or PCs, as well as really continuing to work on their app designs."

Reller also noted the accelerated update cadence for Windows 8, which she described as a "continuous product-improvement cycle." Windows 8 has been updated 739 times via Windows Update, according to Reller. That does not include updates to individual apps, which now number over 70,000 available in the Windows Store.

"We feel very good about the direction that we're headed with Windows 8 and our ability to really deliver these continuous updates to customers, whether it's continuous updates through Windows Update, updates through the App Store, as well as Windows 8.1," she said.

Reller did not give any details about what specific changes Windows 8.1 will bring, though she noted that it will be more substantial than what is typically delivered via Windows Update. Windows 8.1 will be more like "a packaged set of updates," she said in a response to a question from the audience.

Microsoft plans to launch a public preview of Windows 8.1 on June 26 to coincide with the start of its BUILD Developer Conference in in San Francisco. A final version is expected to become available by the end of this calendar year, Reller said.

Reller expressed confidence in Windows 8's trajectory, particularly in how it positions Microsoft in the mobile computing market.

"With Windows 8...we really did introduce this new experience that redefined what is possible with mobile computing. Windows 8 was built for a world that blends our work and our personal lives. It was built for a world where we believe people would expect touch-first experiences everywhere. And also a world that is always on the go and expects to be always connected," Reller said. "Since the launch of Windows 8, we've seen our partners really deliver more innovation than ever before. And that's across tablets, that's across laptops, as well as convertibles."

Microsoft has sold over 100 million Windows 8 licenses so far, Reller said, up from January's 60 million count. The company also plans to expand the availability of its Surface tablet, which is currently available in 29 markets.

Reller's optimism is at odds with Windows 8's desktop market share, which stood at 3.8 percent in April, according to the latest available data from NetMarketShare. That figure trails Windows 7, Windows XP and even the much-maligned Windows Vista. Windows 8's slow adoption rate has prompted Microsoft to discount the cost to license the OS for its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners.

Compounding the problem for Microsoft is the fact that sales of traditional PCs have been declining globally. Industry analysts have pinned the drop in PC sales, in part, to rising demand for smaller form factors, including tablets and smartphones. In its Q3 earnings call, Microsoft assured investors that it is adapting to the changing market and pointed to forthcoming Windows 8 devices that are touch-enabled, run on smaller form factors and hit a wider range of price points.

Reller on Tuesday reiterated those assurances, saying, "The whole idea with Windows 8 was to go beyond the PC and really define the markets that we could participate in -- move from PCs to mobile computing broadly."

Audio of Reller's talk is available here.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the site editor for RCPmag.com.

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