Windows 8.1 to arrive on October 18, minus Start button

Microsoft will release Windows 8.1 on October 18, almost a year since the company introduced Windows 8, its first tablet-optimised OS

Microsoft will release Windows 8.1 on October 18, almost a year since the company introduced Windows 8, its first-tablet optimised OS.

Product manager Brandon Le Blanc claimed the update represented an example of Microsoft’s commitment to continuous innovation and improvement for customers.

He wrote on the Windows blog: “Windows 8.1 brings many improvements in areas like personalisation, Internet Explorer 11, search which is powered by Bing, built-in apps including a few new ones, an improved Windows Store experience and cloud connectivity with SkyDrive that people will enjoy.”

Le Blanc made no reference in his post to the Start button, which many desktop and laptop users sorely miss.

In May, Microsoft’s head of marketing, Tami Reller admitted that the learning curve with the company’s new user interface was “definitely real,” suggesting Microsoft would make changes to the touch user interface (UI) to reintroduce the much-loved Start button in Windows 8.

Microsoft is facing increasing challenges to its core user Windows and Office product lines, with users opting for low-cost tablets over Windows-powered devices. It took a $900m hit on its own Windows Surface tablet and has slashed the price by £120 to £279 for the 64GB Windows RTmodel.

CEO Steve Ballmer has responded to these challenges by attempting to steer the company in a new direction, by focusing on hardware and services. Ballmer plans to grow consumer hardware and enterprise services. 

“We will design, create and deliver, through us and through third parties, a complete family of Windows-powered devices,” Ballmer explained in a memo sent to staff.

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