Windows 8.1 is bringing new features and improvements such as greater personalization, Bing Smart Search, and more than 20 new and improved Microsoft apps and services.
Consumers who are not using a Windows 8 device will be able to buy Windows 8.1, either as a download from Windows.com or at your local store as a retail packaged DVD product. While pricing varies by market, in the U.S., Windows 8.1 will be available for $119.99 ERP (U.S.) and Windows 8.1 Pro will be available for $199.99 ERP (U.S.). The pricing and editions for Windows 8.1 are similar to what Microsoft has today for Windows 8.
One shift to note in Windows 8.1 is that Microsoft will be offering "full version software" at retail and online for download that does not require a previous version of Windows in order to be installed. The copy of Windows 8 that is currently available for sale at retail and online is an "upgrade version." This shift allows more flexibility for users in specific technical scenarios. It will be easier for those users who want to build PCs from scratch, run Windows 8.1 in Virtual Machine (VM) environments, or run Windows 8.1 on a second hard drive partition.
For non-Windows 8 devices, here is how upgrading to Windows 8.1 using the retail DVD and download software will work:
- Windows 7: Consumers can upgrade a Windows 7 PC which will bring along all their files, but will require them to reinstall desktop apps including Microsoft Office.
- Windows XP & Windows Vista: Windows 8.1 is not designed for installation on devices running Windows XP or Windows Vista. Although not designed or recommended for devices running Windows XP or Windows Vista, consumers still wanting to upgrade from Windows XP or Windows Vista should buy the retail DVD instead of using the download and boot from the DVD to do a clean install of Windows 8.1. Note: files, settings and programs will not transfer ? users will need to back up their files and settings, perform clean installation, and then reinstall their files, settings and programs.
If you buy a device later this year that comes with the Windows 8.1 edition, you will be able to purchase the Windows 8.1 Pro Pack for $99.99 ERP (U.S.), which unlocks all of the features unique to Pro, as well as Windows Media Center. If you are on Windows 8.1 Pro, you can buy Windows Media Center for $9.99 (U.S.).
Seperately, TechNet and MSDN subscribers will now have access to Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM. This also includes access for Microsoft's Volume License (VL) customers with an active Software Assurance (SA) agreement.
Microsoft encourages users to evaluate Windows 8.1 RTM bits to get a jump start on your deployment planning, using it with the new deployment tools that are already available to create a fully-functional model of the deployment processes that they will use once Windows 8.1 Enterprise is generally available on October 18.
Windows 8.1 Enterprise supports the premium features designed to address the mobile productivity, security, manageability and virtualization needs of enterprises.
Organizations that acquired Windows 8 Pro through a VL agreement are licensed for Windows 8.1 Pro even if their SA expired prior to the GA release of Windows 8.1 Pro. This does not apply to Windows 8 Enterprise; you must have active SA for the Windows desktop operating system to have rights to Windows 8.1 Enterprise licenses. Windows 8.1 for production use (Pro and Enterprise) will be available through the VLSC on October 18 and for new customers to purchase through Microsoft Volume License Resellers beginning November 1.