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Windows 8.1 release date, new features and price UK

Everything you need to know about Windows 8.1 release date and new features

Windows 8.1 lockscreen

Windows 8.1, previously known as Windows Blue, is the first major update for the Windows 8 operating system. Here is the Windows 8.1 release date, new features and price. Updated 30/09/2013.

See also: How to try out Windows 8.1 Preview in the UK

Microsoft has said that it will change 'key aspects' of its Windows 8 operating system for PCs, laptops and tablets, admitting that the steep learning curve for users is 'definitely real'. See also: Microsoft to change 'key aspects' of OS with Windows Blue.

"Not only will Windows 8.1 respond to customer feedback, but it will add new features and functionality that advance the touch experience and mobile computing’s potential. Windows 8.1 will deliver improvements and enhancements in key areas like personalization, search, the built-in apps, Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity."

Read on to find out exactly what Windows 8.1 is and how it will affect you.

Windows 8.1: Release date

Windows 8.1 will be officially launched at the Microsoft Build developer conference in San Francisco on June 26. But you won't be able to get hold of it immediately. The final version will be available as a free downloadable Windows 8 update 'late 2013', according to Microsoft. At that point also expect some new Windows Blue hardware in time for Christmas.

Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 8.1 will be released on 17 October at midday in the UK. "It’s very exciting to be delivering Windows 8.1 to consumers just before Windows 8 celebrates its 1-year anniversary." it said.

It will be available as retail and on new device starting from 18 October.

For now you can give the Windows 8.1 Preview a trial run. See also: How to try out Windows 8.1 Preview in the UK.

What is Windows 8.1 (aka Windows Blue)?

Windows Blue is a new version of the Windows 8 operating system which Microsoft is working on. Instead of releasing service packs, Microsoft will issue new versions of the OS much like Apple does with OS X.

The firm already does a similar thing with Windows Phone, for example, 7.5 'Mango' and 8 'Apollo'.

Tammi Reller, head of marketing and finance for the Windows, said: "It will deliver the latest new innovations across an increasingly broad array of form factors of all sizes, display, battery life and performance, while creating new opportunities for our ecosystem. It will provide more options for businesses, and give consumers more options for work and play."

Windows 8.1: What new features will it bring?

Microsoft has given a 'first look' at Windows 8.1, detailing some of the new features which will arrive with the update.

Personalisation and apps

As leaked information suggested, users will be able to personalise the OS more. The Lock screen can now display a slideshow of photos (plus the camera can be used without needing to log in). There will also be more colours and backgrounds for the Start screen.

Windows Blue Start Screen

The updated Start screen will offer new larger and smaller tile sizes. "You can now select multiple apps all at once, resize them, uninstall them, or rearrange them." said Microsoft.

Windows 8.1 Start Screen

Newly installed apps won't be added to the Start screen automatically, instead it will be displayed in a 'new' section of the apps menu. Microsoft said users will also be able to view apps by name, date installed, most used or by category.

Microsoft said the pre-loaded apps in Windows 8 will be improved including Photos and Music. There will also be some new apps which are yet to be announced and Snap Views will let you resize apps to the any size and the ability to have three apps on-screen at once for better multi-tasking.

"Also in Windows 8.1, you can have multiple windows of the same app snapped together – such as two Internet Explorer windows." added Microsoft.

Windows 8.1 multitasking

Windows Store

Microsoft will update the Windows Store in version 8.1. A redesign will aim to show more information and a search bar at the top. Listing are more descriptive and includes an related apps section to help you find new apps.

Search

The search section of the Charms bar will give 'global search results powered by Bing' in order to give you the best result. It will work for the web, apps, files, SkyDrive and actions you can take.

"Quick actions include things you would want to do like play a song or video. Results from local files, apps, and settings are easily accessed in the same convenient view by scrolling to the left." said the firm.

Other

Other updates will include PC settings which can be accessed without using the control panel and Internet Explorer 11 touting better performance. SkyDrive will also let you save files directly to the cloud and offline access.

In what is, in a way, the return of the Start menu, the Start 'tip' will now be the Windows logo and pop up when the mouse is moved to the bottom left hand corner of the screen. It will also be visible whenever you're in Desktop mode.

"There are also options to change what the corners do, and options to boot into alternate screens. For example, if you prefer to see the Apps view versus all the tiles, you can choose to have the Start screen go directly to Apps view." said Microsoft.

See also: Microsoft to bring back Start button in Windows 8.1.

A rumour is that users will be able to boot straight to the desktop rather than the Start Screen. This is not currently possible in Windows 8. We'll have to wait and see if this tips up.

Windows 8.1: Price

Microsoft has announced that the Windows 8.1 update will be available for free via the Windows Store.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

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