While it looks like Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on Windows 8.1, a couple of reports say the release date is still a couple months away.
Both ZDNet and The Verge claim that Windows 8.1 will launch in October, not just for existing Windows 8 PCs, but for new computers running the updated operating system. The duo were the first to report on Windows 8.1's (then called Windows Blue) existence, many months ago.
Mind you, this isn't a delay, as Microsoft has never confirmed a release date for Windows 8.1. The company has only said that it would release the software to PC makers (a process known as RTM) in August. Both reports say Microsoft is still on track.
But as ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley explains, Microsoft may be holding back the actual launch for a couple of reasons: First, Windows 8.1 is reportedly quite buggy, even for a test build, so the extra time will allow Microsoft to clean things up via software updates for new PC buyers. Second, releasing both the update and new Windows 8.1 devices at the same time might create a bigger splash, amounting to a “launch event” for the more user-friendly version of Microsoft's operating system.
Windows 8.1 includes a number of concessions for desktop users, as well as new features for the modern interface. Users will be able to boot straight to the desktop, disable modern-style “hot corners” and access key desktop functions by right-clicking on the newly-restored Start button. The modern interface includes major improvements to built-in apps, the ability to use three apps side-by-side, overhauled Bing search and more. The net effect is that it's easier to stay on the desktop if you want, but not unthinkable to switch to the modern UI.
If Microsoft manages to launch the update in October, it'll fall around the one-year anniversary of Windows 8. That's a big change for Windows, which typically releases major updates once every few years, but it's a necessary change as Microsoft tries to keep up with Apple and Google. Whether you love or hate the operating system, there's no doubt that Microsoft's switch to a rapid release cycle is definitely bearing fruit.