Microsoft Windows Update Will Be 8.1, Free To Customers

It's official. The forthcoming update to Windows 8 will be called Windows 8.1 and it will be a free update to customers, according to Microsoft.

Tami Reller, CMO and CFO of Microsoft's Windows division, told attendees Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Boston that the Windows 8 update, previously referred to as Windows Blue, will have a public preview starting on June 26, timed with the Build developer conference in San Francisco.

The 8.1 update will be available from the Windows Start screen and through Microsoft's Windows app store, she added.

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"Windows 8 and Windows RT will get even better," Reller told the J.P. Morgan attendees. "It will be seamless and easy to get. This means customers today that have Windows 8 or plan to buy a device in the near future, will seamlessly be able to get 8.1."

Last week, Reller said that Windows 8 had sold 100 million licenses, though that number is believed to represent licenses purchased though not necessarily in use yet.

Windows 8.1 will be generally available to customers "later this calendar year," Reller said. "We're very sensitive to the timing of holidays and what that means to get an update out."

Microsoft anticipates having a lineup of devices with Windows 8.1 preloaded in time for the holiday season, she added.

Michael Butz, president and CEO of UltraLevel, a Detroit-based solution provider, does not expect Windows 8.1 to have a significant impact on the adoption of Windows 8 with his customers.

"I think companies, organizations are always going to lag. It's the application compatibility. It's been true for 15 to 20 years. I just don't see enterprises trying to jump the curve on that. Every version of Windows was supposed to be faster adoption than it turns out to be," he said.

Microsoft's Reller said enterprise adoption will come in time and that if customers are upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP first, that's OK.

"From the very first time we started to talk Windows 8 [to enterprise customers], we said continue on your Windows 7 deploy path," she said. "We have so many customers that we want to be successful on that, especially with [Windows] XP end-of-life around the corner. For Windows 8, we recommend you evaluate [Windows 8] tablets and other new device types coming out and look at line-of-business development apps to take you to the next generation. That's what we're seeing them do."

Reller was asked about the future of Windows RT given that Intel is coming out with its Haswell chip that will be more energy-efficient. She said that both ARM (which runs RT) and Intel (which runs Windows 8) will be strong partners going forward.

"Having that scalability of both ARM architecture and the full capabilty across Intel architecture is important," Reller said. "We still need the flexibility of ARM and across Intel. The work we're doing with Intel has never been stronger. We're excited about the new Atom tablets that have hit the market already. We still want to continue down the path of ARM with more flexibility across the spectrum."