Microsoft gave people a peek into Windows 8.1—a free update that promises to address some of the gripes people have with the latest version of the company's flagship operating system—at Microsoft Build 2013.
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The three-day Build conference, which started Wednesday in San Francisco, gave Microsoft developers a chance to learn more about the new system and try it out. It also gives the company a chance to explain some of the reasoning behind the update and sell developers on Microsoft's ambitions to regain relevance lost to Apple's iPad and various devices running Google's Android software.
Although the preview version of Windows 8.1 was meant for Microsoft's partners and other technology developers, everyone is able to download it for free starting Wednesday, exactly eight months since desktops, laptops and tablets with Windows 8 went on sale. The version of the Windows 8.1 update meant for the general public will come out later in the year, though a specific date hasn't been announced.
The big news came from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in his keynote address: The return of the "start" button! This was one of users' biggest gripes about Windows 8.
Ballmer said the update was a bit of a mea culpa that they "pushed too boldly with Windows 8."
One caveat: The "start" button won't launch the same pop-up menu as it used to, instead it takes users to the new start screen and users can right-click to get to the control panel, task manager, search and other items, as well as to shut down or restart the computer. (In Windows 8, restart and shutdown were hidden in a drop-down in the top right corner.)