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Windows Blue gets official name: Windows 8.1

Tami Reller, the top Windows marketing and financial exec, tells a J.P. Morgan conference that Windows 8.1 will be free and available later this year.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
2 min read
Tami Reller, chief marketing officer and chief financial officer of the Windows division. Microsoft

The update to the struggling Windows 8 operating system, known by the code name "Blue," will be called Windows 8.1, a naming convention that Microsoft has used for its software updates for years.

Tami Reller, the chief marketing officer and chief financial officer of Microsoft's Windows division, disclosed the name during a speech at J.P. Morgan's Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Boston this morning.

The new software, which Microsoft also wrote about on its Windows blog, will be available for download for free for existing Windows 8 users later this year.

"It will be easy to get from the Windows start screen," Reller said at the conference in Boston. (CNET followed her speech via Webcast.)

To date, the Windows division has updated the various versions of the Windows 8 operating system 739 times, Reller said. Windows 8.1, however, will offer significantly more changes than those frequent fixes.

"This is more substantial than what we can deliver in those weekly updates," Reller said.

Reller offered few details of what would be in Windows 8.1. There was no discussion, for example, about whether the update will bring back the Start Button that Windows users have come to know over the years, only to find it missing in Windows 8. Those questions will likely be answered when the preview of Windows 8.1 arrives on June 26 in time for Build, Microsoft's developers conference, in San Francisco.

Instead of offering those details, Reller explained the Windows group's "principled but not stubborn" approach to updating the operating system.

"You need to have a vision. You need to have a point of view. And you need to consistently deliver on that," Reller said. "You're also consistently listening, learning, and becoming smarter."

As for the timing for the general release of Windows 8.1, Reller said it will arrive before the winter holidays. She said the company recognizes the importance of giving its hardware partners enough time to install the update on the devices they hope to put on store shelves in prime shopping season.

"We understand when the holidays are," Reller said.

Updated at 8:42 a.m. PT with more details.