Microsoft has promised businesses a flurry of "innovative new devices" running its new Windows 8.1 operating system after the update became available today.
Less than a year ago, the software giant – which is now billing itself as a devices and services firm – launched Windows 8, which many analysts branded a disappointment. Some blamed it for failing to boost the shrinking PC market, while others claimed businesses had shunned the new OS.
From today, consumers and business customers already running Windows 8 can upgrade to Windows 8.1 for free, and tomorrow will see new devices able to run the OS.
"Windows 8.1 will also bring some very innovative new devices for both consumers and businesses from tablets and 2-in-1s with a perfect mix of mobility and productivity, to new laptops," promised Microsoft.
The vendor claimed the update reflects the feedback it received and "demonstrates [its] commitment to continuously improving the product".
The new OS sees the return of the Start button – which many users sorely missed when Windows 8 first launched – as well as new backgrounds, tile sizes and colour options. Users will be able to run up to four apps side by side on Windows 8.1, which also boasts support for multi-monitor use.
At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston this year, soon-to-depart chief executive Steve Ballmer insisted Windows 8's launch had been remarkable and quipped about the amount of feedback it had received.
UK resellers were upbeat on the launch today and London VAR The Final Step's managing director Raja Pagadala said the return of the Start button was the most welcome update.
"The return of the Start button and being able to boot to desktop is welcome. It will provide a degree of familiarity for those users more accustomed to working with previous versions of Windows," he said.
"This is particularly important given the imminent Windows XP end of support. Firms are looking around now and assessing their options. Windows 8.1 will make this adoption much easier."
CCS Media's sales and brand director James Hardy added that his firm had been using the update for a few months and said customers were excited about the update.
Today saw 14 of the UK IT channel's biggest hitters come together to determine the winners of CRN's WiC awards. But what does being a WiC judge actually involve? Doug Woodburn reports
'Smaller firms may struggle to keep up with Microsoft's innovation with Dynamics' says CEO Stuart Fenton after acquiring assets from Profile Enterprise Solutions
Pete Peterson admits the firm hasn't always been the 'easiest company to do business with'
New chief exec Aaron Painter says 'longer-term strategy' could see firm tackle the Asian market