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Windows 8.1 has spent the past few months being primed and prepared for its October 17th release date, and with build number 9600 now confirmed as the Release to manufacturing (RTM), the process of assembling Windows 8.1 for public consumption is all-but complete. In a week that has seen CEO Steve Ballmer announce his imminent retirement after 13 years at the helm, it’s critical that this transitional phase has only a positive effect on the Redmond company’s product range, and with Windows 8.1 now getting its RTM, the stage is set for a new wave of corresponding products.

Windows 8 may only have hit the market last October, but with a wider target market including post-PC devices such as tablets, the software maker is changing its release cycle to offer more regular, incremental updates. The days of waiting four or more years for a new version of Windows appear over, and although some may presume Windows 8.1 is merely a Service Pack with a slightly more extravagant name, it’s long list of new features and performance enhancements mean that, in actual fact, it’s quite a bit more than that.

Microsoft disclosed the details of the Windows 8.1 RTM, including the build number 9600, to The Verge, and while no announcement has yet been officially made, the company is expected to reveal Windows 8.1 Release to Manufacturing at some point next week.

The next step for the software, naturally, is to begin shipping to vendors of Windows 8 devices, where it will be pre-installed for new devices shipping from October 18th. If you’re already in ownership of a Windows 8 PC or device, you’ll probably already be aware that Windows 8.1 will be a free update from the Windows Store, and with the Windows 8.1 release date set in stone for October 17th. Initially, it was though that Microsoft may charge a small fee for the update, but current Windows 8 users will, thankfully, not have to pay for the privilege of using the new features.

Microsoft Surface Pro

One of the key new features of the Windows 8.1 update is, in fact, the reintroduction of the old Start Button, and while users have begun to adapt to the new interface, it will be nice to have an air of familiarity about proceedings once Windows 8.1 rears its head.

Start-with-wallpaper-High-res_313398B8

Having been tailored for mid-size tablets as well, we’re expecting a flurry of exciting new devices to be unveiled over the next couple of months, particularly with IFA looming. We’ll keep you informed on anything interesting that crops up, so stay tuned!

(via: TheVerge)

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