Microsoft has announced that the first major update to Windows 8, known as Windows 8.1, will be available worldwide beginning Oct. 18. The update will be released as a free download for consumers and brings a slew of features intended to address user feedback on the OS.
Microsoft says users will be able to download the update directly from the Windows Store on Oct. 18. It will also be available on new Windows 8 devices out of the box. The announcement follows reports from yesterday that indicated Windows 8.1 would launch during October and the Release to Manufacturing edition would hit vendors this month.
The timing of Windows 8.1′s launch may coincide with the release of new 7- and 8-in. devices from Microsoft’s partners. According to IDC, Windows 8 touch PCs are off to a slow start, so the hopes is that more affordable tablets will spur interest in the improved OS. A Surface 2 should also be in the pipeline for this fall, as Nvidia’s CEO recently let slip that his company will be providing the chip inside.
Windows 8.1, which was unveiled back in June, will bring multitasking improvements as well as tweaks to the user interface. These features include camera access from the lock screen and a new universal search engine that communicates with Bing and Wikipedia. Microsoft is also re-introducing the Start button, but it brings users to the Start screen and doesn’t include the beloved Start menu.
According to The Verge, Windows 8.1 will also include more visual cues and helpful tutorials for first-time Windows 8 users. With new iPads potentially on tap for Sept. 10, the pressure will be on Microsoft to deliver.