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Windows 8.1 update coming mid-October

Windows 8.1 is almost ready, but Microsoft is holding on to it until mid-October.

Windows 8.1 is on deck in October. There's much riding on the first major update to Microsoft's troubled Windows 8 software, and even though it's reported to be almost ready, it seems Microsoft is holding back until the leaves start to fall.

Our sister site ZDNet reports the update to Windows 8 will land in mid-October, around six weeks from now.

Before that, Microsoft will this month send out the near-final release to manufacturing (RTM) version of the software to PC builders, so they can start sticking it in their forthcoming computers ready to hit shops with 8.1 already installed.

A sneak peek of the almost-ready update emerged yesterday, showing off a new Help and Tips app, one of the aspects of the audaciously styled Windows 8.1 designed to make the software less of a wrench for new users.

The bold coloured squares of Windows 8's touchscreen-focused look and feel marked one of the biggest redesigns ever for Microsoft's venerable operating system, failing to win over people used to Windows 7, Vista or XP.

Listening to critics, Microsoft has returned some familiar elements to the Windows 8.1 update, including the return of the Start button and the option to bypass the colourful but controversial home screen.

An October launch means Windows 8.1 will be available on new PCs and as an upgrade almost exactly a year after Windows 8 first arrived.

It's not been a great year: Windows 8 has been blamed as one of the major factors in the recent decline of PC sales, while Microsoft has lost a staggering $900m on the Windows 8-powered Surface tablet.

Can Windows 8.1 turn things around? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.