Windows 8.1 Update

On Tuesday, April 8, Microsoft released "Windows 8.1 Update", the second significant update for Windows 8 since its release in October 2012.

Information Systems & Computing (ISC) and other groups across campus have tested Windows 8.1 Update and found that it works as expected with many Penn applications and services, including AirPennNet, Box, ISC Exchange, Symantec Endpoint Protection, and Zimbra.

ISC Recommendation

ISC supports Windows 8.1 Update for its clients, including off-campus students.

Changes

Windows 8.1 Update includes improvements to make Windows 8 more usable with devices that use keyboard and mouse input (as opposed to the already well-refined touch interface). Power and Search buttons are now visible on the Start screen, rather than hidden in the “Charms". “Modern" apps can now be pinned to the traditional desktop taskbar, and the taskbar can be used from within Modern apps.

Windows 8.1 Update also includes security and performance updates, and must be installed on Windows 8.1 systems to receive any future security updates for Windows 8.1 later in 2014.

The Windows RT version, Windows RT 8.1 Update includes many of the same changes present in Windows 8.1 Update but optimizes these changes for ARM-based tablets such as Microsoft's Surface RT and Surface 2.

Analysis

Windows 8 marked the biggest change to the user-facing portions of Windows since Windows 95, and Windows 8.1 Update is an incremental improvement with optimizations and minor changes. In terms of scope, Windows 8.1 Update is most easily compared to October 2013's Windows 8.1, in that it is a free update that both patches bugs and makes small but notable functionality changes.

Windows 8.1 Update also marks another sign of Microsoft's newfound ability to quickly revise its Windows operating systems. Microsoft has sharply reduced the time period between significant changes in its operating system, adopting a cycle similar to Apple's OS X. ISC believes that most Windows 8.x users at the University will move to Windows 8.1 Update some time later in FY2014 and will support only Windows 8.1 Update and above for all Windows 8.x systems for FY2015.

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Date Posted: April 11, 2014

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