Readers of this site have known about Windows 8.1 Update 1 for months now, but Microsoft this weekend finally officially confirmed it exists. More to the point, the firm provided details about what it intends to deliver in the update.
In a blog post penned by Joe Belfiore—which I think is important, more on that below—Microsoft revealed that Update 1 is largely about responding to complaints (or at least requests) about Windows 8 from its hardware partners.
"We are committed to making Windows the best place for our partners to build great devices," he writes. "Today that means different screen sizes, input methods, connectivity needs, and usage scenarios. Above all, we want that experience to feel natural for our customers. We want it to be familiar and tailored to the device. We want your stuff to be there no matter where you are, ready for whatever you need, and we want it to run beautifully on hardware made by partners around the world."
In Windows 8.1 Update 1—or, "an update to Windows 8.1, coming this spring," as Belfiore calls it—Microsoft will deliver the following improvements:
Lower-cost hardware. This is a licensing change, not a technical change, but whatever. "We'll enable our partners to build lower cost hardware for a great Windows experience at highly competitive price points." I wrote about this yesterday in Report: Microsoft to Drop Windows Licensing Fees for Low-End Devices. Now you know why I called this a "credible report." Yes, a range of Windows devices are coming that will cost less than $250.
User experience changes to help bridge the "touch" (i.e. Modern/"Metro") and desktop environments. Aimed "especially for mouse and keyboard users," Microsoft has made a number of UI changes to Windows 8.1 that will make the Modern side of the OS "more familiar and more convenient for users with mouse/keyboard." If you've been reading this site, you're already up on these changes, of course.
Enterprise changes. Windows 8.1 isn't just for consumers, apparently. And with this update, Microsoft is providing a number of changes aimed at businesses, including "greatly improved IE8 compatibility in Internet Explorer 11," improved "mobile device management capabilities," and "easier deployment." All very vague.
More soon, I hope. But here's the big deal. Joe Belfiore.
There's been a lot of talk about how the Windows Phone team has in effect staged a very interesting coup in the OS group at Microsoft. That is, it isn't the old Windows team calling the shots anymore. It's Terry Myerson. Windows Phone. And that means Joe B. is back in a big way. After being relegated to the Windows Phone backwaters for several years there, Joe B. and his team are now leading the push to consolidate the previously far-too-separate Windows and Windows Phone efforts. This means a more cohesive design, I think. But more important, it means that the right people—finally—are working on mainstream Windows.
This can only have a positive effect. I'm very excited for this change and will be closely analyzing everything Joe says this weekend and beyond.