Microsoft’s Tami Reller spoke at a JP Mogan technology conference this afternoon. The big news of the day: Windows 8.1 will be a free upgrade when it’s released later this year.
There have been plenty of rumors about Windows 8.1 pricing leading up to today. Some said free, others expected an inexpensive Apple-style price tag. Thankfully, Reller has cleared the air and we can focus on things like features and a release date instead of wondering if we’ll need to start saving our couch cushion change.
No specific launch date was given, but Reller told the crowd that Microsoft “knows when the holidays are.” With a developer preview of Windows 8.1 expected at Build next month, it seems reasonable that the 8.1 update would land just ahead of the shopping rush — possibly some time in October. And no, she didn’t get into specific details like whether or not the Start Button really is coming back or if you’ll be able to bypass the Start Screen. She did, however, offer another hint that Windows 8.1 will be showing up on iPad Mini-sized devices.
Reller noted that Windows 8 is a perfect fit on PCs of all sizes, from desktops and all-in-ones right down to “the smallest tablets.” She didn’t exactly let the cat out of the bag with that quote, obviously. Microsoft all but confirmed as much back when it changed the Windows 8 device certification guidelines. Later, a premature product placement from one of Microsoft’s biggest Windows partners seemed to have spilled the beans. Amazon briefly listed the Iconia W3on its digital shelves. The unannounced Atom-powered tablet was shown as running Windows 8 and having a 7-inch 1280 x 800 display. The page has since been pulled down, but that leak, coupled with Ms. Reller’s comments today, should be all the confirmation we need.
Since you’re not going to have to spend any cash on the Windows 8.1 upgrade, maybe you can justify dropping $300 on a small Windows tablet this fall instead.