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Windows 8.1 update for August to offer minor tweaks

Microsoft's latest strategy with Windows 8.1 is to roll out regular updates that refine the OS but don't deliver major new features.


Windows 8.1 is due for another update this month, but don't get your hopes up for any radical changes.

In a blog posted Tuesday, Microsoft Marketing Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc cautioned users not to expect the same level of key enhancements that graced the Windows 8.1 Update launched in early April. Instead, this month's update, due August 12, will do little to change the way you work and play with Windows 8.1.

In an effort to appease disgruntled desktop users, Microsoft updated Windows 8 and then 8.1 with features designed to make the OS more PC friendly. Windows 8.1 added the ability to boot directly to the desktop, while the April 8.1 update carried with it a dedicated Start screen Power button, the ability to pin Windows 8 apps to the taskbar, and other improvements for keyboard and mouse users. So why isn't Microsoft following the same course with the August update? The company is saving its big guns for next year.

Initially, Microsoft had planned to reintroduce the Start menu in this month's 8.1 update along with other likely enhancements. But at some point, the company reversed course and is now planning to bring back the Start menu in April of 2015 in a version of Windows currently known as Threshold and potentially dubbed Windows 9 when it debuts.

In the meantime, Microsoft's current strategy for Windows 8.1 is to release more frequent but less breathtaking updates as it prepares for next year's major release. Just what does the August update promise for 8.1 users? Aside from the usual security patches, we can expect the following, according to LeBlanc:

  • Precision touchpad improvements - three new end-user settings have been added: leave touch pad on when a mouse is connected; allow right-clicks on the touchpad; double-tap and drag.
  • Miracast Receive - exposes a set of Wi-Fi direct APIs for Independent Hardware Vendor (IHV) drivers or OEM drivers to develop Windows 32-bit applications that run on all supported x86-based or x64-based versions of Windows 8.1, enabling the computer as a Miracast receiver.
  • Minimizing login prompts for SharePoint Online - reduces the number of prompts with federated use in accessing SharePoint Online sites. If you select the "Keep me signed in" check box when you log on for the first time, you will not see prompts for successive access to that SharePoint Online site.

There may be more in store since LeBlanc calls these "some of the new features and improvement." But aside from the touchpad improvements, there's not much here to excite the average Windows 8.1 user. The August update will also roll out to Windows Server 2012 R2, which should be of interest to IT professionals.

For current users of Windows 8.1 who have automatic updates turned on, the rollout will be gradual, meaning it won't automatically install for everyone starting August 12. But you can still install the update manually by selecting it from the Details pane in the Windows Update screen in 8.1 and clicking the Install button.

Since the update is considered minor, it won't be dubbed "Windows 8.1 Update 2." LeBlanc didn't reveal an actual name in his blog. So perhaps calling it the Windows 8.1 August Update is probably the safest bet at this point.