Microsoft Plans Windows 8.1 Public Preview, Hints at Start Button

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A senior Microsoft official confirmed on Tuesday that Microsoft’s forthcoming OS update will be called “Windows 8.1”, promising a public preview on June 26. Tami Reller, CMO and CFO of Microsoft’s Windows Division, also hinted that Windows 8.1 might see a return of the Start Button, and that it will be released in time for this year’s holiday season.

The public preview of Windows 8.1 will be made at the start of its Build 2013 developers conference, Reller said, speaking at JP Morgan’s Technology, Media & Technology Conference on Tuesday.

Windows 8.1 will then be delivered “later in the calendar year,” she noted. Reller would not elaborate, except to say that, “We know when the holidays are.” The Windows 8.1 update will be released for both Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Expands on Earlier Statements

In a blog post last week, Reller also gave the 2013 calendar year as the time frame for formal release, but she didn’t identify the name of the update, beyond referring to it by its codename, Windows Blue.

Also in that blog, Reller gave vague descriptions of the update, maintaining that it will “deliver the latest new innovations across an increasingly broad array of form factors of all sizes, display, battery life and performance, creating new opportunities for our ecosystem.”

The update is also “an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we’ve been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT,” she said in last week’s blog.

Return of the Start Button?

Meanwhile, rumors have flown that the update will include a return of the Start Button to Windows. A leak of a build that went out over the Internet in March did not show a Start Button.

However, at the JP Morgan conference on Tuesday, Reller dropped what could be a new clue.

“It will be easy to get from the Windows Start Screen,” Reller said.

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