Windows 8.1 will begin its worldwide journey at 12 a.m. on Oct. 18 in New Zealand, where the clock will roll over to the new day, first. Windows 8 users will be able to download and install Windows 8.1, a free update, via Microsoft's Windows Store.
To be clear, Windows 8.1 will be listed in Microsoft's Windows Store for existing Windows 8 users at 7 a.m. EDT on Oct. 17, with boxed copies and a full retail release on the following day.
Windows 8.1 includes a number of tweaks and improvements over Windows 8. For one, user demand means that Microsoft will bring the Start button -- though not the start menu. Responding to further user demand, there is also a Boot to Desktop option for users who want to bypass the Start screen.
Also, the company has tweaked the OS' UI for smaller Live Tiles and better support on 7- and 8-inch tablets. Multitasking is also improved.
New hardware is expected to be introduced on Oct. 18, as well, although Microsoft won't say what will be made available on Oct. 18. One thing we have to wonder about is a possible Surface 2 tablet, although it might show up in a rumored smaller size.