After much public criticism and internal debate, Microsoft made an abrupt about-face and released Windows 8.1 RTM to TechNet and MSDN subscribers — well before the OS’s public debut.
With release-to-manufacturer, Windows 8.1 is effectively complete and will roll out to Windows 8 users in mid-October.
As reported in a ZDNet story and other sources, Microsoft initially decided that TechNet/MSDN subscribers (Microsoft’s developer “partners” — a term I use loosely) would see official Windows 8 RTM bits at the same time as everyone else — the reported Oct. 18 general-availability release date, when consumers will be able to download the Win8 upgrade.
Developers, support people, and folks who write about Windows 8.1 (like me) hit the roof. Leaving IT professionals in the dark until everyone gets the bits is just (to use Bill G.’s favorite word) “stupid!” But, as noted in a Neowin.net article, sanity eventually prevailed and the near-final, final Win8.1 suddenly appeared on the TechNet and MSDN software-download sites.
That’s fortunate for all of us; we can now take an early look at the official Windows 8.1 RTM and not have to rely on “pirated” copies.
Before going through Windows 8.1, I’ll cut directly to the 30-second summary: if you have Windows 8, you’re going to want to upgrade to Windows 8.1. There are a few gotchas (see below), but by and large Win 8.1 is an improvement.
On the other hand, if you’re still using Windows 7 and you’re on the fence about migrating to Windows 8, nothing in Win8.1 will sway your decision to upgrade. For traditional Windows users who are perfectly happy with a mouse, a nice screen, and a comfortable keyboard — and who prefer to not poke at big, blinking boxes — Win8.1 brings nothing new to the table.