As the August date approaches for Microsoft to release its Windows 8.1 OS update to OEM partners, there are reports that IT professionals and early adopters will have to wait until October to start running final RTM code. Additionally, a new near-complete version of Windows 8.1 has leaked into the wild, revealing newly added features aimed at helping touch-based users navigate the interface.
According to reports, Microsoft will not make the final Windows 8.1 code available to its MSDN or TechNet subscribers soon after RTM -- as is typically the case.
In July, Tami Reller, corporate vice president and chief marketing officer for Windows, announced Windows 8.1 will be available to system builders the last week of August and that consumers would receive the final update on Oct. 25.
Microsoft declined CRN's request for comment.
Currently system builders can run a beta version build of Windows 8.1, but according to ZDNet, a newer version (9471) has been leaked to the Web that includes a new tutorial and navigational aids. Other new features that are part of the leaked build include an update to the built-in Mail and Calendar apps and subtle design and navigational features for apps found in Windows Phone OS.
A delay in rolling out the Windows 8.1 RTM to IT professionals and MSND and TechNet subscribers is a departure from how Microsoft has rolled out previous Windows RTM versions. Given the high stakes surrounding the Windows 8.1 rollout, Microsoft is reportedly playing it safe and working with device makers to squash bugs and fix last-minute problems before the public gets its hands on the final code.
"Microsoft is slowly moving closer to the announce-today-and-ship-tonight way of announcing products and updates," said Larry Velez, CTO and founder of Sinu, a New York-based MSP that partners with both Google and Microsoft. Velez said that delaying the RTM's release to early adopters and TechNet gives Microsoft a bigger surprise reveal for Windows 8.1 in October, when OEM partners will also likely have new hardware to debut. That’s a good thing, he said.
"Microsoft needs to stop giving our long product road maps to grumpy partners and designing their OS by consensus," Velez said. He said Microsoft's reported decision to delay releasing final RTM code will not impact Sinu because its systems will come pre-loaded with Windows 8.1 from Sinu's OEM partner.
VARs have told CRN that they are cautiously optimistic about Windows 8.1 with its new Start Button, ability to boot to desktop and BYOD device manageability options for the enterprise.
Windows 8.1 is considered Microsoft's course correction for Windows 8 and its radical touch-centric overhaul of the OS. VARs have had a tough time with Windows 8 and in some cases have been busier replacing Windows 8 with Windows 7, instead of selling it.
PUBLISHED AUG. 13, 2013