Microsoft corporate VP Tami Reller said today that the next major update to Windows will be called Windows 8.1 and that it will be available for free before the end of the year.

“We feel very good about the direction we’re heading in with Windows 8,” Reller said today at the JP Morgan Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference in Boston. “Windows 8.1 is an update. Since launch, we’ve continued to deliver many product updates. This is more substantial than a daily or a weekly update.”

The update was originally code-named Windows Blue, but it looks like Microsoft has finally seen fit to call it Windows 8.1. The update will be available to download via the Windows Store. Not only will the update come to Windows 8 devices, but it will hit Windows RT devices as well.

A preview version of Windows 8.1 will be available to the public on June 26 at the start of Microsoft’s Build developer conference in San Francisco.

As for broader availability, Reller said 8.1 will be available “later this year” and that the company is sensitive to holidays. Microsoft wants Windows 8.1 loaded on devices available for purchase during the holidays.

Reller did not mention any new features that 8.1 will include, but earlier reports have said Microsoft will bring back a version of the Start button on the desktop and an option to boot directly to the desktop.

Additionally, Reller mentioned during her talk that the Windows Store now has 70,000 apps. That’s a pretty impressive number given that Windows 8 only launched last October.

Screenshot via Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat


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