Microsoft Released Windows 8.1

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Microsoft ( MSFT) officially released Windows 8.1 to the public this morning. Microsoft says it's made free, downloadable upgrades available for both Windows 8 and Windows RT users. Whether you can actually download the upgrade, that's a different story.

Beginning at 7 am, the company began rolling out the new OS on through its Windows Store application. Microsoft saying Windows users have been eager to try the new software is an understatement. So far, I've personally been waiting more than three hours to download the new OS on any of four computers (two Win8 and two WinRT) connected via two separate network connections.

Fortunately, over the years I've learned that early adopters have to be very patient during the initial deluge. Currently, I'm trying to be patient.

A quick check of the comments on the official Blogging Windows Website proves I'm not alone. The software rollout is taking its time to get to everyone who wants it.

Loyal fans of Windows 8 agree that the first version of the operating system was less than perfect. The experts at Microsoft believe, " Windows 8.1 brings a variety of new features and improvements to Windows 8 that we think people will really enjoy. We listened to your feedback and are delivering many of the improvements you asked for."

The most visible change is the return of the "Start" button in its usual place on the classic Windows screen. Tapping the 8.1 "Start" button will take you to the computer's other "Metro" interface while holding down the button opens a list of Windows functions.

That's not the only reason to upgrade. In a test of the public preview/beta released weeks ago, there were other improvements. Overall, those changes make for a much more pleasant computing experience. That goes for both Windows 8 (Intel-based ( INTC)) and Windows RT ARM-based ( ARMH)) devices.

On the other hand, 8.1 doesn't magically transform Windows into a perfectly cohesive, two-screen system (far from it), but it does address many of the most important user complaints.

Current Windows 8 and Windows RT users can download the upgrade for free. Users who have Windows 7, Vista and XP will have to pay to upgrade, with prices ranging between $120 for the standard version and $200 for Windows 8.1 Professional. Beginning tomorrow, those who prefer buying a physical copy will be able to buy 8.1 on a DVD.

Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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