Let the countdown begin! Windows 8.1, the first ever refresh of Microsoft’s flagship OS is ready to be unleashed in just two months from now, or 60 days for those that prefer their numbers exact.

Most of you will already be aware that Windows 8.1 (codenamed Windows Blue) is not exactly a regular service pack, but a major update for Windows 8 — one that brings wholesale changes in order to make the platform a much more familiar working environment.

Redmond is quick to remind everyone that the upcoming operating system is proof that the company is listening to customer feedback.

And one of the most important (symbolically, at least) additions to Windows 8.1 is the return of the Start button, which also includes a small right-click menu. Still, Microsoft continues to bet really big on the Start screen, and the returning feature actually takes users back to the Metro UI.

Nevertheless, Windows 8.1 packs a ton of improvements — several of which have been reserved for the Start screen, including several new customization options, backgrounds, live tile sizes, plus support for the desktop wallpaper.

Cosmetic changes aside, users are finally allowed to configure the OS to boost directly to desktop, thereby skipping the Modern UI completely

But in a rather surprising move, a dedicated option to disable the Start button to end up with the old Windows 8 interface is still missing — probably a sign of controlled rage from Microsoft? How hard would adding such an option be for fans of the vanilla Windows 8?

Windows 8.1 is on track to hit RTM status by the end of this month, and will go live on October 18. The same cannot be said of the MSDN and TechNet subscribers. They are increasingly likely to get the new OS at about the same time it hits general availability.

The reason cited for this is that Microsoft wants to continue work on the OS after the RTM phase, to further polish it and iron out the bugs.

All said and done, the software titan fully expects Windows 8.1 to boost adoption of its modern OS

Windows 8 has so far managed to reach slightly over a 5 percent global market share in over six months of availability. More importantly, however, the company hopes Windows 8.1 to make way for a new wave of device, everything from touch capable hybrids to smaller tablets.

October 18 cannot get here sooner!

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  • Ray C

    I think Windows 8 adoption will really start to pick up now. I predict they’ll hit 15% in the amount of time they were only able to get to 5 before. It’s hard to say what the rate of growth will be after that because we never know what the end of support for Windows XP will mean

  • Mike Greenway

    Live goes by too quickly already, I can wait. windows 8 is fun in the mean time. Microsoft makes good products and I trust them more then most. Their biggest problems are the 2 Ps, Pirates and the Press. Thieves and liars have to much influence.