Windows 8.1 is on the Way to Hit the Market

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The Windows 8.1 release date is October 17 – it will be available to existing Windows 8 users for free on Windows Update. It will be available to buy in retail from October 18 and has already been released to manufacturers. We’ve also had plenty of time with the new update and are running it every day, so check out our brand new Hands on: Windows 8.1 review. To whet everybody’s appetite, Microsoft has released a preview version, called the Windows 8.1 Release Preview. It’s now available to download.

The first Windows 8.1 laptops and Windows 8.1 tablets have already been announced, with numerous devices being launched already including Toshiba’s Encore tablet, Dell Venue 8 Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2. Surface 2 run the new version of Windows RT, which is also known as Windows 8.1 RT. Then there are Dell’s new Venue Pro tablets as well as the XPS 13 and 15.

Windows 8.1 will begin rolling out worldwide as a free update for consumers on Windows 8 through the Windows Store. Windows 8.1 will also be available at retail and on new devices starting on October 18 by market.” Windows 8.1 boxed copies are available for pre-order right now. The big headline news is that the Start button has returned to Windows 8 with Windows 8.1, although it still goes to the Start screen rather than the Start menu. There is also more integration between the desktop and Start screen to stop the jarring of the two interfaces.

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We’ve picked out the two enhancements in Windows 8.1 along with some quotes from Leblond about each one.

1. Lock screen slideshow

“As people started using Windows 8, we found that people were using their Lock screens to show pictures of their families,” Leblond says. So in Windows 8.1, you can turn your PC or tablet into a picture frame by making your Lock screen a slide show of your pictures – either locally on the device or photos from Microsoft SkyDrive. You can unlock the camera or answer a Skype call quickly without needing to fiddle with a password. If small tablets get popular, that will be useful.

2. The Start screen evolves

Windows 8.1 offers more colors and backgrounds for the Start screen – including some with motion. You can also choose your desktop background as your Start screen background. However, it’s still perfectly possible to get a really garish looking Start screen, like this – does anybody actually use these patterns?

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