Windows Blue Officially Named Windows 8.1, Will Be Free

Microsoft is quickly moving forward with its Windows 8 update, now officially called Windows 8.1, and it has wisely decided not to charge users for the upgrade.

Microsoft is moving forward rapidly with its Windows 8 update, formerly known as Windows Blue and now officially named Windows 8.1.

In addition to revealing the new moniker, Windows CMO and CFO Tami Reller also announced today at the JP Morgan Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in Boston that the update will be a free update to Windows 8 and Windows RT users and can be accessed easily from the Windows Store.

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These announcements come on the heels of a post by Microsoft VP of Corporate Communications, Frank X. Shaw, that disputes the negativity in the media surrounding Windows 8 and the perception that Windows 8.1 is an apology for Windows 8.

"In this world where everyone is a publisher, there is a trend to the extreme – where those who want to stand out opt for sensationalism and hyperbole over nuanced analysis," writes Shaw, who then links to articles from the Financial Times and the Economist as examples.

Slideshow: A Sneak Peek at Windows Blue

Some analysts say such a defensive stance against user dissatisfaction and lackluster sales (which, let's face it, is the source for the negative media coverage) makes Microsoft look weak. But at least the company is listening to user feedback and executing on it with Windows 8.1 much quicker than it ever has.

As for the free upgrade to Windows 8.1, there has been speculation for a while that the upgrade would be gratis. It's safe to say Microsoft is admitting that, given Windows 8's lukewarm reception, it is not in a position to nickel-and-dime customers. Plus, Windows 8.1 upgrade fees would be pennies compared to Microsoft's greater potential: getting more and more people using Windows 8 and its ecosystem and apps. That's where the money is – not in petty upgrade fees. Microsoft was wise to see the big picture here.

Microsoft also announced, through a company blog post, that a public preview of Windows 8.1 will be available starting on June 26, at which point we will see if rumored Windows 8.1 features such as direct boot to the desktop and the resurrection of the Start Button are for real.

The June 26 date coincides with the company's Build developer conference in San Francisco. So you can expect Windows 8.1 demos at Build. The public preview will be available for Windows 8 and Windows RT.

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