Windows 8.1 Preview and "Outlook RT" Unveiled at COMPUTEX 2013

Microsoft shared new ecosystem opportunities, shows Windows 8.1 Preview, as well as announces Outlook RT on Windows-based ARM tablets with the upcoming Windows 8.1 at Computex.

Microsoft uses Comuptex Taipei 2013 platform to promote its upcoming Windows 8.1 operating system. During the keynote, Microsoft's execs onstage shared the ongoing progress with Windows 8.1 update, and what that means in terms of opportunities for the ecosystem, as well as demonstrated a Preview Build.

The video featuring Jensen Harris from the Windows User Experience Team, highlights improvements such as "the Start Screen, personalization, multitasking, apps list and search charm," as well as a few cool things regarding Metro, and other things including: "enhancements in Windows Store experience, cloud connectivity and the new Internet Explorer 11."

The video also briefly show desktop, when Harris demo's desktop wallpapers on the Start Screen.

Microsoft's Michael Niehaus also recently shared that the Windows 8.1 Preview will be pushed to both Windows 8 and Windows RT users via Windows Update.

And, with the RTM version, users of both Windows 8/RT, will again receive a Windows Update notification to upgrade "without loosing any data, accounts or apps, much like the Windows 7 to Windows 8 upgrade process."

Windows 8.1 Update Notification

However, those who installed fresh Windows 8.1 Preview for the first time, will be able to upgrade, but at the loss of all their apps. "Data and User Accounts will be taken along with the upgrade process, but user downloaded apps will be wiped and will need a re-install," explains Niehaus. But, those, who stick with Windows 8/RT, will be able to upgrade to the Windows 8.1 RTM without the loss of anything.

Windows 8.1 Update Screen

Microsoft is also working on adding improved function keys for those who use a Touch or Type Cover on their Surface RT or Surface Pro.

".. with an update that will come in about a week for Surface, we'll have the ability to toggle between what the keys on the top row do, get some quick access to other capabilities like screenshots through shortcuts, and just make some things like paging easier to do with one hand," Microsoft stated in a blog post.

The new update, due next week, "will allow Fn + Caps to lock the F1 to F12 function keys at the top of the Touch or Type Cover. Other functions include Fn + to print screen, Fn + + Alt to print the screen that's in focus. Fn + Del and Fn + Backspace to adjust the brightness. Fn + or for Home and End keys, respectively. Fn + and Fn + to access Page Up and Page Down functionality," explains the blog.

Microsoft is actively providing updates and improvements to Surface based on user feedback as well as the ideology of providing the best experience possible, which is quite obvious with this upcoming update due next week. In just a few weeks, Windows RT users will also get a chance to install Windows 8.1 RT preview as well!

Windows CFO and CMO Tami Reller also announced that Outlook 2013 RT will be coming to Windows RT tablets as part of the free Windows 8.1 update coming later this year.

Outlook RT Screenshot

Outlook RT running on Windows RT

Tami said, "We're always listening to our customers and one piece of feedback was that people want the power of Outlook on all their Windows PCs and tablets such as the Surface RT, Dell XPS 10, Lenovo Yoga 11, and ASUS VivoTab RT "as well as new tablets to come in the future." "Outlook will be joining the other Office applications currently available on Windows RT, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote"."

Tami also announced that new small screen x86 tablets including the recently announced Acer Iconia W3, will come with Office Home and Student 2013 right out of the box. "For both businesses and consumers, we're committed to making all Windows tablets, both x86 and ARM, great options for work as well as play," she said.

And with today's news, "Outlook will soon be available across Windows PCs, phones and tablets."

In addition, Microsoft also demostrated Windows 8.1 Preview Build 9410/15, at its 2013 TechEd North America.

The presentation begins with Microsoft's Corporate VP Brad Anderson driving an Aston Martin in a car chase for a stolen item. Anderson opens up the event by stating that we will see "significant innovations" to every one of the company's products running our datacenters. Grab a cup of coffee and hit play below to watch the presentation. Windows 8.1 is introduced a bit after the 10 minute mark.

Some of the other hardware innovation showcased at the Computex Taipei, including fourth generation Intel Core processors available now, beautiful high-definition displays, rotating touch panels, near-field communications (NFC) for file sharing between devices and ultrathin notebooks.

Later, Steve Guggenheimer, cvp of Microsoft's Developer Platform Evangelism group, talked about the growing universe of Windows 8 apps and how the Windows ecosystem provides symmetry for app builders across client, device, server and cloud, and showed an array of popular apps for consumers and business including "Temple Run: Brave," Twitter, Foursquare, LINE, Adobe Illustrator and more.

Parker showcased a broad range of devices and demonstrated how the Windows platform and services work seamlessly across screens: "Windows Phone 8. Park demonstrated the recently announced Nokia Lumia 925, which features advanced lens technology and next-generation imaging software to capture clearer, sharper pictures and video, including the best low-light images."

Update 06/06: Video showing off new Start button added below:

Update 06/08: Lebond explained Windows 8.1 "portrait-mode" and also talked up some previously disclosed Windows 8.1 features, such as the Metrofied PC Settings, more versatile Snap options and touch-keyboard autosuggestion improvements as making smaller-screen Windows 8 devices workable.

He said:

  • "(W)e did some work in Windows 8.1 to have portrait-specific Start screen layouts that work much better. All of the apps that are in the box actually work just as well in portrait mode as they work in landscape."
  • "We did some work at the device interface level around edge detection and things like that to make it easier to have smaller bezels on these devices so that OEMs and folks who build devices like this could build exactly the kinds of devices they want, and Windows 8.1 will be great on them."
  • That's good news for anyone who has been frustrated when trying to use their Surface RT or Pro -- or other Windows 8 or Windows RT tablets -- in portrait mode to no avail.