Windows 8.1 Update 1, Windows Server 2012 R2 Update Due Spring

Microsoft on Sunday confirmed that Windows 8.1 Update 1 will be released sometime this spring, alongside an update to Windows Server 2012 R2.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president and manager for Windows Phone, announced the Windows 8.1 update during a press talk at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. He also discussed the upcoming update for Windows Phone at the same event.

Microsoft is continuing its "more rapid release cadence" with the new Windows 8.1 update, which will arrive "over the next few months," Belfiore said. He didn't specify a date, but veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley noted her sources are saying it will be on April 8.

The Windows 8.1 update will include improvements for mouse and keyboard users, support for expanded hardware options and compatibility improvements for organizations, according to Belfiore's talk.

Windows 8.1 improvements. (Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft found that users of Windows 8 on devices lacking touchscreens were less satisfied with the experience compared with those users who had touch screens, Belfiore said. So, Microsoft is creating improvements specifically designed for mouse and keyboard users in the new update.

Microsoft will add search, power button and settings options to the Start screen with the Windows 8.l update. Right-mouse-clicking on the screen will let users start and close apps. Mouse and keyboard users will see a close button on Windows Store Apps (also known as "Metro" apps). Belfiore explained that mouse and keyboard users have tended to get confused on how to close Windows Store Apps, which is why a close button is being added. Apps will be easier to launch and switch to from the Windows 8.1 taskbar, Microsoft is also promising.

Lastly, Microsoft plans to add an "IE 8 compatibility mode for IE 11." Belfiore said that the new compatibility mode will help improve the compatibility of legacy Web apps in organizations. Internet Explorer 8 was the last version of Microsoft's browser that Windows XP supported and many corporate Web apps may be based on that older IE 8 technology. Presumably, the new compatibility mode may help organizations when they can't or won't update those "legacy" Web apps.

Microsoft is promising to help hardware makers "build lower-cost hardware" with the Windows 8.1 update. Specifically called out will be added support for 1 GB of RAM as well as 16 GB of storage on the hardware side with the update's release.

[Click on image for larger view.] Mouse and keyboard improvements. (Source: Microsoft)

The IE 8 compatibility mode for IE 11 and the mouse and keyboard improvements in the coming Windows 8.1 update had been leaked earlier this year. Today's descriptions by Belfiore seemed to confirm those "rumored" improvements to come.

Also coming in the spring will be "a minor update" to Windows Server 2012 R2, according to a Windows Server blog post. The update is described as bringing user interface improvements and bug fixes, plus security patches and monthly update rollups. While that may sound like a service pack, Microsoft's blog described it as a "servicing update."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.