Windows 8.1 Search has been given a completely new look and feel. Same for the Windows Store, home to many downloadable apps. The Store is especially important for Windows RT users since the only way they can install additional apps is through the store. Windows RT still comes with Microsoft Office installed as standard equipment.
Windows 8.1 also offers a better integration with Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage services. There are new Calculator, Alarm, Reader, Food and Drink, Health and Fitness and Sound Recorder apps plus a panoramic photo function for the camera.
While we found some welcomed improvements and tweaks, we'll reserve final judgment until we can spend more time with the new system. But, real success will be measured by whether Microsoft has improved enough to stop declining Windows computer sales. And, in the case of Windows RT, help it hardware sales get started in the first place.
Officially, Windows 8.1 will be a free upgrade for Windows 8 and Windows RT users. Although no actual date has been announced we expect Microsoft will release the new software later this year ﾖ in time for the holiday shopping rush.
--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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