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Microsoft has confirmed the launch date for the Windows 8.1 free update, bringing back a sort-of Start button function, among a host of other improvements and fixes, as the company gets serious about pushing Windows 8 to all. 

Microsoft Pushes the Start Button

Over the decades, business users have learned that the best way to migrate across versions of Windows is to wait until the first big update arrives, that fixes all the launch glitches. But then, recent versions of Windows have done pretty much everything business users needed, and they've stopped upgrading.

So, will the arrival of Windows 8.1, officially blogged by Microsoft, recently trialled in the Enterprise preview, and now officially confirmed to roll out to systems from 18 October help encourage those still on Windows 7, Vista or even XP to get a wiggle on and join the Metro party? With its questionable changes to the customer experience and downgrading of the importance of the desktop, does it create any more pull for those legacy users to upgrade? 

Support for Windows XP ends in April 2014, which should get the real old-timers upgrading, but chatter suggests that those on Windows 7, and those that bothered migrating to Vista, are quite happy with the existing systems. Microsoft can't push forward the end-of-life date for those, which means it has to generate real return-on-investment box tickers to get things moving. 

Windows 8.1 Opening For Business

Features start outside the actual OS, with new tools like Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013 for the IT department, plus improvements to the likes of AppLocker, an updated PowerShell, side-loading, virtual desktop infrastructure, enterprise-wide Start screen control and remote data removal.

Users get less benefit with the strange twin worlds of Metro (which Microsoft still hasn't given a decent replacement name for) and the traditional desktop. But at least the boot to desktop option will help those confused by Metro bypass all the tiles. Hopefully they'll manage to squeeze in the rebranded SkyDrive too. 

Still, the release date is barely three years after Windows 7 became generally available, a short time for IT departments, and with many still under strict budgetary controls, is there the desire to go through the upgrade cycle again? Perhaps the temptation of cheap Surface Pro tablets, might encourage some executives to see what all the fuss is about, but it remains a tough spot to find compelling upgrade reasons.