Windows 8.1 preview release date: June 26 -- Blue will be FREE

'Free' as in beer, presumably.

Windows 8.1 Blue release date

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) confirms rumors that Windows Blue will be called 8.1 and will be a free upgrade. But no news yet on whether the Start Menu is back. Speaking at a conference in New York, Windows co-honcho Tami Reller opened the kimono just a crack wider.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

Juan Carlos Perez reportz:

Microsoft's Windows 8 update...Windows 8.1...will be free. ... [It] will be more substantial than the regular patches Microsoft pushes out [and] will be "really easy" and "straightforward" for customers to install.  

...a preview will be released at the end of June during Microsoft's Build conference. ... Microsoft wants to give OEM partners a chance to load it...for the holiday season.  MORE

Adding special color, Nancy Gohring (with fried egg): [You're fired -Ed.]

Touch screen supply constraints were blamed for a lack of variety of interesting form factors when Windows 8 launched. ... OEMs may not have had the time that they typically do to develop new products. ... One-third of the Windows 8 machines on shelves at Best Buy [now] have touch screens [and some] are selling for just over $400.

...

But Microsoft may be counting on its strong position in the enterprise to carry it through...a huge market for Microsoft. ...large businesses are often very slow to implement new technologies [but] some are even ditching plans to use iPads in favor of Windows 8 products.  MORE

Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc is "pleased" (obvs.):

We are pleased with the progress we’ve seen with Windows 8. ... [OEMs] have introduced some incredible (and unique) new form factors. ... We now have more than 70,000 apps in the Windows Store. ... As PCs continue to evolve...so does Windows 8.

...

our goal [is] delivering continual updates to create a richer experience. ... Windows 8.1 is part of that. ...available for Windows 8 and Windows RT.  MORE

But a really rattled Roland Rivera snarks it up:

Thats nice of them not to charge to fix the mistakes they made.  MORE

For surely Paul Shirley can't be serious?

8.1 is mostly about forcing the new stuff on us more effectively. ... I don't believe MS are past the denial stage yet. ...they're [not] ready to actually fix the problems.  

...any restoration of dropped desktop features has more to do with blocking 3rd party work rounds than restoring the excised features. I wont be surprised if the rumoured return of the Start Button overrides replacements, dragging users kicking and screaming to the unwieldy Start Screen.  MORE

Meanwhile, Preston 'presentimentor' Gralla sees the writing on the Windows wall:

Microsoft will eventually turn Windows into an annual subscription service. ... Microsoft wants a steady, dependable income stream.

...

I think Microsoft did [8.1] as a way to get people used to the idea that Windows would no longer necessarily be on a "big bang" release cycle. ...it wants to acclimate people to interim changes. ... Once it's got people used to that change, it can start charging for [a] subscription service [that] could cover multiple devices.  MORE

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