Microsoft’s Tami Reller: Windows Blue, or Windows 8.1, will be free to upgraders

Bluestacks plus Windows 8

Windows Blue, which will be officially known as Windows 8.1, will be a free upgrade to existing Windows 8 or Windows RT users, Tami Reller, CFO of the Windows business unit at Microsoft said on Tuesday. She also said attendees of the Microsoft Build Conference kicking off June 26 will get a preview version of the OS upgrade.

Tami Reller, Microsoft CMO.

Tami Reller, Microsoft CMO.

Reller did not provide much more detail around when customers can get the OS upgrade, but said Microsoft is “very aware” of the holidays and would like to have the OS preloaded on hardware for that selling season. But that desire notwithstanding, buyers can get any Windows 8 device and be assured that 8.1 will be an easy update from the start button  screen, Reller told attendees of the JP Morgan Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.

She also characterized 8.1 as an update, more than the usual product tweaks deliverable online, but less than a full new release.

Earlier remarks by Reller in the Financial Times seemed to indicate that Microsoft was rethinking Windows 8 broadly, in response to user feedback, but today 8.1 was positioned as an easy, seamless update. No new interface perks were mentioned.

Windows 8 and RT, which Microsoft launched last fall to put Windows on new form-factor and touch devices, have met mixed reviews. But Reller said it’s met its objectives — running lots of innovative devices including “detachables” where the keyboard can be snapped off to leave a touch-device; convertibles which can shape-shift from laptop to touch device; and plain old traditional laptops and PCs.

Reller also said that Microsoft’s ability to sell into enterprise accounts remains strong and is actually getting stronger. And, for all the angst around Windows 8, the company on its last earnings call said it expects to reap nearly $4 billion in Windows-related licensing revenue this fiscal year. That’s a big number even Windows bashers would have to respect.

This story was updated at 8:31 a.m. PDT with more information about Microsoft enterprise sales and again at 11:34 a.m. PDT to correct the record — Reller talked about updates being easy from the Windows start screen, not the start button.

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