Windows 8.1 Released To Manufacturers - InformationWeek

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Software // Operating Systems
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Windows 8.1 Released To Manufacturers

Microsoft puts Windows 8.1 in PC and tablet makers' hands. But according to Forrester analyst, there might not be many customers waiting.

10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
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Microsoft confirmed Tuesday that it has begun releasing Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 to hardware partners, signaling the company's final dash toward the OS update's October 18 release.

Thanks to customer feedback and "an unparalleled level of collaboration across product teams," Windows 8.1 has reached the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage "in a very short time," said Antoine Leblond, Microsoft's corporate VP of Windows Program Management, in a statement. He noted that the upgrade will reach OEMs only 10 months after Windows 8 launched, adding that manufacturers will soon offer new Windows devices that range from "the smallest tablets to the most lightweight notebooks to versatile 2-in-1s, as well as industry devices designed for business."

Leblond's tone is notable in that it echoes so many of the strategic points outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer has made throughout the last year: Windows must offer a unified experience that spans devices, Microsoft is establishing a more collaborative culture to facilitate this goal, trends toward consumerization and mobility mean Windows updates will have to arrive much more rapidly than in the past, and so on.

[ Most tablet users still prefer to use a keyboard, but that alone isn't enough to save Windows 8. Read Windows 8 Won't Be Saved By Keyboards. ]

Ballmer shocked the tech industry last week when he unexpectedly announced that he would retire within the next year. Less than six weeks earlier, Ballmer reorganized the company to better facilitate its new "devices and services" persona, a strategic shift he announced the previous fall.

When Ballmer disclosed his retirement plans, he said the company needed someone who could shepherd the transition for the long term. But reports have since indicated that the Microsoft board has doubts about Ballmer's plan, especially after the company's most recent fiscal reports confirmed two of shareholders' most unsettling fears: that Microsoft's Surface tablets have been a debacle, and that Windows 8's sluggish adoption and the slumping PC market have finally begun to take a toll on Microsoft's bottom line. As such, commentators have started to question whether Microsoft will hire a CEO who can facilitate Ballmer's "one Microsoft" plan or whether it will opt for a more radical shake-up.

At least for now, though, Microsoft appears to be staying the course. The rhetoric the company used in July when Windows 8.1 was released as a public preview is essentially the same that Leblond used on Monday, despite all the financial and organizational changes that have occurred in the interim.

When Windows 8.1 arrives, it will usher in a host of enhancements and tweaks, including improved core apps, a more customizable interface and the ability to boot directly to the desktop. Microsoft hopes the refinements to the OS's Modern UI will help it gain tablet market share among consumers this holiday season, and that enterprises will start adopting Windows 8.1 in 2014, when many of them will upgrade retiring Windows XP systems.

When Microsoft released the Windows 8.1 preview, analysts were cautiously optimistic that the OS was making the right moves to address user concerns. But according to Forrester analyst David Johnson, interest in Windows 8.1 hasn't improved much in the meantime.

"Windows 8.1 has not impressed anyone that I've spoken with," he said in an interview on Monday. Johnson stated that enterprise users want a Start menu that functions like the one in Windows 7, not Windows 8.1's ersatz version, which redirects to an "All Apps" view.

Johnson said that Microsoft hasn't submitted to this demand because doing so would conflict with the company's desire to usher users toward the Modern UI, which plays a central role in both the company's mobility strategy and Steve Ballmer's larger "one Microsoft" vision.

At least a few people are eager to get their hands on Windows 8.1, however. Last year, the company released Windows 8 early to qualifying IT professionals. This time it is withholding Windows 8.1 from everyone except OEMs until release. In a comments thread following Leblond's statement, some commenters voiced their disapproval with the decision, arguing that Microsoft is neglecting its base of IT pros and that TechNet and MSDN subscribers should have early access for testing, as they have in the past.

Leblond replied in the comments that Microsoft isn't releasing Windows 8.1 early because it is continuing to "put the finishing touches on Windows 8.1."

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User Rank: Apprentice
9/8/2013 | 1:55:59 AM
re: Windows 8.1 Released To Manufacturers
i heard there are still 36 languages of Win 8.1 version , in my opinion , the win 8 system is good , though there are still some problems , but it's really smart . waiting Oct. 18 , i will update the win 8.1 at first time .expert it won't disappointed me .
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Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
8/29/2013 | 8:17:12 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Released To Manufacturers
Sounds like 8.1 will roll out just as 8 did. To a collective shrug. Windows 8 is turning out to be the El Camino (car in the front, truck in the back) of operating systems. Or worse, the mullet!
User Rank: Ninja
8/28/2013 | 5:46:10 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Released To Manufacturers
If bad publicity was all it took to bring down MS, it would have been forced into bankruptcy long ago. Rather MS overreached with Windows 8 and was punished by the market.
User Rank: Strategist
8/28/2013 | 5:14:54 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Released To Manufacturers
Unfortunately for Microsoft, they are the victims of bad "word-of-mouth" advertising. Nearly everyone I talk about Windows 8 says one of the two same things - "It sucks." or "I heard it sucks.". I retort that it is just different and that it is best suited for touch enabled devices. This is where MS had gone wrong. There should have been a UI choice so that if you were running a desktop it would look like a desktop and if you were running it on a touch device it would use the Modern UI. This could have been automatic or user selected. In either case, MS is doing that now with 8.1 but the proverbial horse has already been let out of the barn. Personally, I don't mind the interface and I can navigate around it, but I also work in the tech field. However, when I order new equipment, I am still trying to get devices that come with Windows 7 - just so I don't have to deal with my end-users. "Too little, too late" seems to be Microsoft's swan song of late.
User Rank: Strategist
8/28/2013 | 5:14:45 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Released To Manufacturers
Did Microsoft learn anything from the Vista debacle? Apparently not, and they are losing their hegemony.
User Rank: Ninja
8/28/2013 | 3:15:21 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Released To Manufacturers
Whatever plan they have, if it isn't working they need to make rapid course corrections. If something isn't selling and competitors are crowing about features they have and/or flaws you have, take an OBJECTIVE deep breath and fix the damn thing as fast as possible. Shareholders are tired of excuses or "we know best" mentalities.

Market leaders may be able to release annual updates but market followers had better collect and incinerate anything with the title BlackBerry's Product Strategies for Idiots.
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