Microsoft has today released Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT to hardware partners, with the company declaring the patch "a significant update" that provides an "intuitive and fluid computing experience".
Fresh from Friday's sudden announcement that CEO Steve Ballmer was to depart the company within a year after 13 at the helm, Microsoft considers Windows 8.1 to be the linchpin of "continuing [its] vision" while it follows through on its "commitment to rapid innovation and responsive engineering".
However, the company has explained that the release to manufacturing [RTM] milestone does not mean what it used to, and has re-enforced the public availability date of 18 October while manufacturers optimise "the overall experience" for Microsoft's customers.
The sheer variety of devices Windows 8.1 will have to run on, from different brands and hardware loadouts of notebooks to non-touch equipped PCs and tablets in varying sizes, means the OS will require as much optimisation as Windows 8 did in order to function satisfactorily on all available products.
The most interesting development will be a promised focus on 7-inch tablets which, ushered in by Steve Ballmer at his keynote at Microsoft's Build conference earlier this year, has so far produced only the disappointing Acer Iconia W3.
How are you finding Windows 8.1 preview? Will you be buying a Windows 8 7-inch tablet? Leave your comments below.