Windows 8.1 ships

For Microsoft employees such as me, Windows 8.1 has arrived in three stages. The first was a preview, which the rest of the planet also had access to. This was covered here. Then came RTM (release to manufacturing), the stage at which it’s almost baked and is ready enough to give to ISVs and manufacturers so that they can work with code that’s representative of the final shipping product. The rest of the planet did not get access to RTM code, and we were given a direction to not widely show it or communicate details outside of Microsoft. I took that to mean ‘no blogging’, so I didn’t.

Personalising Windows 8.1A small frustration in the sequence of events was that we did receive the RTM code for ‘full’ Windows but not the edition which runs on the Surface RT. So, for the best part of two months my Surface has lagged behind my main laptop… and there was a big difference in overall polish and finish, and in some of the apps.

Today, that is rectified, and my Surface RT is upgraded to Windows 8.1. I will blog in more detail about some of the improvements, but here’s a quick rundown of the changes between Preview and RTM:

  • Updated apps – big overhaul of e-mail and the people hub
  • And sort of connected to the apps, when you pin a person from the people hub to the start screen you can pick the tile size (depending how interesting, important or boring they are)
  • The calendar app has a rather funky what’s next view, and you can choose the background
  • More personalisation options – some live backgrounds for the start screen, including the scrolling dragon seen in the preview video (which isn’t as good as the flying robots or the skyline with blinking lights)
  • Snapping apps – originally Windows 8 allowed two apps snapped at a 25:75 (or 75:25) ratio, but Windows 8.1 provides a more flexible range of ratios and it’s smoother and snappier than the preview
  • Improved search results – a general improvement of layout

To be honest, there’s not many new features since the preview, but it’s all about spit and polish. The difference on the RT really has to be experienced first-hand.

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