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Alot of people have simply referred to Windows 8.1 as Windows 8 Service Pack 1, and for all intents and purposes that is what it is.
I don't normally review service packs, since usually there isn't enough of a difference between it and the prior release, however with Windows 8.1 there are a few changes:

  • There are a number of UI changes, which could potentially invalidate existing documentation. A service pack avoids doing this.
  • Service packs sometimes make kernel-level changes, but with 8.1 Microsoft bumped the NT version number from 6.2 to 6.3. This might break programs that check for compatibility based on this number.
  • There are many reports of broken applications as a result of Windows 8.1. A real service pack is designed to minimize this kind of breakage.
  • The only way to get 8.1 is through the Store, which leaves those who can't or won't use it searching for torrents of scratching their heads.
  • DVDs containing service packs usually retain the previous product name. With Win8SP1 Microsoft now calls it Windows 8.1.

What Microsoft thinks of it doesn't matter. However if these yearly updates really are going to be considered full OS iterations and not service packs, and compatibility/stability isn't regarded as highly as it should be, this is going to become a HUGE problem for people who need to have a stable platform.

But in any event, on to the screenshots.

Windows 8.1 Install
Installing Windows 8.1 the way Microsoft wants you to.

Windows 8.1 Splash
The splash screen is identical.

Windows 8.1 Lock Screen
The lock screen still doesn't give any indication as to what to do, and still isn't "simple to use" on a desktop, so that hasn't changed.

Windows 8.1 Metro Start
The start screen has largely remained the same (and it still scrolls horizontally like it should NOT!), however tiles are now permitted to be both larger and smaller than they were. There is also a new arrow that, when clicked, displays the All Apps page. Previously that functionality was hidden.

Windows 8.1 All Apps
The all apps page hasn't changed, and it is still permitted to become a mile long if you install several programs.

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