Microsoft Windows 8.1 released worldwide

Microsoft Windows 8.1 has been released globally with the long-awaited update bringing a raft of features to the popular operating system including the oft-requested Start button.

The upgrade, which is offered free of charge to existing Windows 8 users, began its roll out at 12:00 BST from Microsoft’s New York based servers with owners of tablets and PCs able to enjoy the update.

Users that don’t already own Windows 8 will have to pay to upgrade to the new OS with Windows 8.1 priced at £99.99 and the higher spec Windows 8.1 Pro setting new customers back £189.99.

Windows 8.1 addresses the gripes that some users had with Windows 8 that centered on a lack of Start button and the new tiled interface being confusing. The Start button is the headline addition with desktop mode also helping to satisfy users not happy with the tiled interface.

The other changes include adding keyboard shortcuts that remove the need for different touchscreen keyboards, gesture control on a variety of apps, the ability to alter the size of tiles and Windows 8 devices can now display browser pages side by side.

In addition to this there is plenty of other small tweaks including better integration with Microsoft’s Xbox console and improved support for multi-tasking.

Those shelling out the extra pounds for Windows 8.1 Pro get enhanced security features and the ability to host a remote desktop connection or connect the device to a school or corporate network.

Windows 8.1 is at the heart of Microsoft’s plan to become a devices and services company with the OS originally created in order to take advantage of the shift towards tablets and away from traditional PCs.

Canalys figures released in August showed that the desktop and laptop markets shrunk be 7.4 per cent and 13.9 per cent respectively with both Gartner and IDC reporting double digit declines for shipments of PCs in the same quarter.

Image Credit: Flickr (Javier Dominguez Ferreiro)