Updated: Microsoft's Windows 8.1 will debut at the Build 2013 conference in June. We run through all the key features.
What is Windows 8.1?
Windows Blue as it has been codenamed is Microsoft’s first major upgrade to the Windows 8 desktop operating system.
The launch of 8.1 will mark a change in strategy for Microsoft. Instead of releasing new editions of Windows after lengthy development cycles, going forward Redmond is expected to refresh its OS on a yearly basis. Windows 8.1 will offer much more than a traditional "Service Pack", making it comparable to Apple's annual OS X updates.
UPDATE: Microsoft has released a blogpost confirming a number of features which will appear Windows 8.1
Microsoft already allows users to set a picture password. With Windows 8.1, this feature will be expanded so the lockscreen can be turned into a picture frame by pulling images from local storage or SkyDrive galleries. It will also be possible to take pictures with the camera without having to log into the device.
As has been widely reported, the Start button will return. However, Microsoft has been ambiguous about the functionality it will offer.
Redmond claims the Start button will always be visible on the desktop and when in the Live Tile interface it will appear when mouse is moved to the bottom left-hand corner. It is highly unlikely the Start Button will have the same functionality as Windows 7.
Booting to alternate screens
Another feature which has been craved is the ability to boot straight to the desktop. Although Microsoft has stopped short of confirming this, it has said there will be options to boot to alternate screens.
“For example, if you prefer to see the Apps view versus all the tiles, you can choose to have the Start screen go directly to Apps view," said Antoine Leblond,corporate VP of the Windows program management said.
Internet Explorer 11
Microsoft has noted that IE 11, debut with Windows 8.1. Improvements touted include better touch performance and faster page loading times. Users will also be able to choose whether they always want the address bar to show and have an unlimited number of tabs open at the same time. Tabs can also be synced across Windows 8.1 devices.
Microsoft has introduced different sizes including the large and small tile. It is also possible to select multiple apps at the same time and resize, uninstall or rearrange them.
You can view all apps just by swiping from the bottom to view all apps, and we’ve added the ability to filter your apps by name, date installed, most used, or by category.
Files will automatically be saved to SkyDrive and Microsoft also stated that the refreshed app will grant offline access to documents.
It will be easier to use multiple apps in Windows 8.1. Microsoft claims users will be able to resize apps to any size, share the screen between two apps, or have up to three apps on each screen if you have a multiple displays connected.
Users will multiple displays will also be able to run different Windows Store apps on screens as well as the Start Screen. Windows 8.1 also allows you can have multiple windows of the same app snapped together – such as two Internet Explorer windows.
The Settings features has been beefed up, meaning you will not have to go into your Control Panel. It will be possible to change your display resolution, set power options, see the make and model of the device, change product key, update Windows Update, and join domains.
Users will also be able to manage SkyDrive accounts from this menu.
TBC. There are no details on pricing, but Windows Blue is expected to be low-cost much like Apple’s yearly Mac OS X upgrades, which retail at $30 per licence.
A public preview is going to be made available to users on the 26th June to coincide with Microsoft's Build event. The RTM is expected to follow in Autumn.
Speaking at the Wired Business Conference on May 7, Julie Larson-Green corporate vice-president for Windows, revealed that a public preview of Windows Blue will be made available on 24 June.