Microsoft Windows 8.1 is set to be released in October 2013
and we now know some of the details about upgrade paths and pricing. As Ed Bott
reports over on sister-site ZDNet, Microsoft
has once again changed the mix of products it is offering to consumers and also
the terms of use for those products
. For a deep analysis of what Microsoft
has up its sleeve for Windows 8.1 you should read Ed’s overview. For our
purposes here, I will touch on just the highlights.

Upgrade paths

In a merciful simplification of the available choices,
Microsoft has discontinued selling separate upgrade and full price editions.
Each Windows 8.1 has a full license that you can use to upgrade an installed
Windows 7 instance if you want or can perform a clean install. A previous licensed
version of Windows is not required.

Only two retail choices

When you go to the store, whether it is online or brick and
mortar, you have two choices:

  • Windows 8.1 (core) – $120
  • Windows 8.1 Pro – $200

The Pro version has the corporate network features and
support for Hyper-V virtualization.

Already have Windows 8

If you already have a Windows 8 computer, you will be able
to upgrade to 8.1 for free. If you are like me and have installed the Windows
8.1 Preview, you will also get the retail version of 8.1 for free.

Bottom line

Having used Windows 8.1 Preview, I can fully endorse the
upgrade from Windows 8. While the differences between each version are often
subtle, they are noticeable and address some of most often cited annoyances
associated with Windows 8 since its initial release. If you are already using
Windows 8, the free upgrade to 8.1 is a no-brainer – you want it.

If you are using Windows 7 on a computer without a
touchscreen, there is really no compelling reason to upgrade now. However, when
buying or building a new PC, there is also no compelling reason not to install
Windows 8.1 instead of Windows 7. Despite what you may have heard, once you
reach the Windows 8 Desktop, there is really not much difference from a user
perspective between 7 and 8.

Also read:

Fact sheet: Microsoft Windows 8.1 (Preview)