The initial preview release will happen this summer at the BUILD conference and the final release is expected toward the end of the year (probably October).
The new release is supposed to "fix" a lot of the deficiencies that came in Windows 8 and make the Windows 8x platform a lot stronger and a lot more attractive to the general public.
In my humble opinion, this has come too late.
You have to remember what Windows 8 was really about.
It wasn't about building a superior Operating System to Windows 7 because architecturally, Windows 8 wins hands down. Faster, more efficient, smoother, cleaner looking - Windows 8 is all those things and more.
Windows 8 was about building an Operating System that would clearly redefine the future of computing and establish Microsoft as the clear leader in the mobile space.
Unfortunately, the Windows 8x platform has failed to achieve what Microsoft really wanted it to - to brand Microsoft as a leader in the mobile era.
What it has really done is expose a few things.
Windows 8x has exposed the fact that it takes a lot to build a successful Operating System.
Throwing money at the problem doesn't necessarily seem like the way to get it built. It takes good ideas, quality development, timing, luck, listening to feedback and the right management to make things happen.
In addition, it takes even more to build a successful ecosystem.
The phone and Xbox parts of the puzzle really don't seem to be coming together that rapidly and it takes a lot of the aforementioned qualities to make that happen as well.
The general public is not stupid.
The attempt to force Metro down people's throats backfired and the company has had to sheepishly try and backtrack with this "upgrade." The customer is always right and Microsoft forgot that.
Anyway, enough told you so's, here's the main point.
Windows 8.1 will be released later this year and will be equally unimpressive and I'll tell you why.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Here are some of the new changes being outlined in Windows 8.1.
- A Windows Store redesign in Windows 8.1
- A Read It Later feature in Windows 8.1
- More Desktop Personalization in Windows 8.1
- New Search Functionality in Windows 8.1
- Changes to Multi-Tasking in Windows 8.1
- Changes to SkyDrive and the cloud in Windows 8.1
- Internet Explorer 11 changes in Windows 8.1
From a technology perspective, there is nothing that Microsoft has announced with Windows 8.1 that makes me or anyone else I know want to abandon Windows 7 immediately.
Now, any Microsoft OS will do hundreds of millions of license sales (even Windows Vista did) so don't be swayed by tricky numbers.
Microsoft will sell a respectable amount of Windows 8x licenses but the fact of the matter is, whether they like it or not, the Windows 8 brand is fatally wounded.
All the band-aids the company has put on this OS to make it work will never be as valuable as a fresh Operating System that simply works right the first time.
At best Windows 8x will be remembered as an OK OS that was fixed later. At worst, it will join Windows Vista in the halls of shame.
Microsoft needs to build an operating system that establishes the company as a true thought leader in the mobile space. Once again, 8x is not that OS.
Look to Windows 9 for any potential leadership push from Microsoft that will lead to true growth in the mobile space.
I continue to believe that Windows is still the key to Microsoft building a viable ecosystem. If Windows stumbles, the entire ecosystem is at risk.
Microsoft will have to go back to the drawing board with Windows 9 and evaluate how to show true leadership in the Operating System space.
They just have to pray that Google (GOOG) does not beat them to it.
Additional disclosure: I am the CEO of Learn About The Web Inc. - www.learnabouttheweb.com. While I have no business relationship with Microsoft of any sort, I am the owner and editor of several Windows websites (Windows8update.com, Windowsblue.com, Windows81.com etc).