Microsoft takes a step to get Windows 8 users current with new automatic update

Microsoft quietly released an update for its Windows RT operating system that allows users to automatically update from Windows RT to Windows RT 8.1. The goal: Get users current.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On July 1, Microsoft released an update to Windows RT that will allow users to automatically update from Windows RT to Windows RT 8.1.


This is more interesting than it might seem because of Microsoft's operating system group's focus on getting as many of its Windows users as possible to run the latest versions of its Windows releases.

Today's Windows RT update  -- available via Windows Update -- may be a precursor to the release of a similar automatic update for Intel-based machines to enable users to move more easily from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. (I've asked Microsoft officials if this is the case. No word back so far.)

Update: It looks like this is exactly what's happening. Here's what the Microsoft spokesperson said, via a statement:

"This (Windows RT) pilot program is an example of ways we’re experimenting to help ensure more of our customers benefit from a continuously improving Windows experience. Similar to how the Windows 8.1 Update process works today, the pilot program will automatically update consumer Windows 8 and Windows RT machines for free to Windows 8.1 Update and Windows RT 8.1 Update in select markets.”

When Microsoft delivered Windows 8.1 last year, the company used the Windows Store to distribute 8.1 (for both Intel and ARM) to Windows 8 users. I talked to a number of users who either didn't understand or couldn't find the 8.1 release in the Store. Some also said they had trouble applying the update from the Store. But when Microsoft released Windows 8.1 Update in April 2014, it used Windows Update, not the Windows Store, to make the latest release available.

Making Windows updates more easily (and more cheaply) available is part of the OS team's overall servicability strategy.

Microsoft's OS team is trying to get to a point where it delivers updates for Windows around on a more regular basis -- perhaps as often as every four months or so, my sources have said. This is what a number of other teams at Microsoft do now, such as the Visual Studio team (three or four updates a year); the Office 365 team (near monthly updates); and the Azure team (monthly or even every three week updates).

To make this simpler, the Windows team wants to get users current. The goal is to get every Windows 7 user running Windows 7 Service Pack 1, and every Windows 8/8.x user running Windows 8.1 Update. That way, there will be fewer different variants of Windows out there when Microsoft starts releasing Windows updates more frequently. 

One additional step Microsoft took recently as part of this get-current move was to cease providing consumers running Windows 8.1 with any security or other patches unless they are running Windows 8.1 Update.

(Thanks to ZDNet's Larry Seltzer for the link to today's Windows RT automatic update.)

Editorial standards