Happy Friday super troopers, it’s time get busy with our weekly Microsoft roundup. It’s been a slightly light week, with one key event: the large unveiling of Windows 8.1, formerly known as the ‘Blue’ update to the operating system. Aside from that, we have a few statistics and other notes to get through.

As always, double check that you are following TNW’s Microsoft channel on both Twitter and Facebook, and we’ll get right into it.

Windows 8.1

The big news this week was Windows 8.1. The leaks, as it turns out, were mostly true. Yes, the Start button is coming back. Yes, the Start Screen will enjoy desktop-bacground sync. Yes, you can boot to desktop.

Microsoft, however, is doing more than answering its most vehement criticisms. It’s adding new applications to the set that ships with the operating system while also building in a massive new search feature. On the whole, Windows 8.1 is a smoothing, improving, an extending proposition. Windows 8 is a miasma of potential, and quirks; it felt like the cake had been pulled from the oven just a bit too early. In Windows 8.1 much of irksome issues that plague Windows 8 have been smoothed.

The question is simple: Is Windows 8.1 enough to sort Windows 8 and restore the market and mind share standing of consumers? Perhaps. But the slope is steep and Windows 8.1 is only what Microsoft has concocted 7 months post general availability of Windows 8.

I hope that doesn’t sound overly negative – the update is a large, worthy upgrade. But the ground to catch up is also quite substantial. At least we can say this: Windows 8.1 puts Microsoft’s larger Windows game on a far firmer footing than it was previously; in a sense, its strength helps make Microsoft’s bets with Metro interface elements less flimsy. That’s a good, I suppose.

For the full scoop, head here.

New Office: Big

The latest version of Office is performing strongly, and Microsoft wants you to know that. As TNW reported:

The latest version of Office has moved more than 20 million copies thus far, across its distribution SKUs. Yesterday, Microsoft announced that Office 365 Home Premium passed the 1 million subscriber mark in a touch more than 100 days. Given its roughly $100 per year price point, that makes Office 365 for consumers a $100 million per year business.

 

As far as internal businesses go, Office 365 has now proven that to its parent firm it can be a consumer-facing product. This implies that the cloud suite can be sold to every vertical that Microsoft cares about: enterprise, consumer, educational, government.

It remains a half step between traditional Office and the cloud, but as a middling option, it appears to be succeeding.

Bigger Surface Pros

If you wanted a Surface Pro, but with more storage, Microsoft has good news for you: A 256 gigabyte model is in the works and headed to Japan. Not in Japan? Wait. The kicker to all of this is the Surface line took a direct hit from the market regarding its functional storage space, once Windows itself was factored in.

Solution: expand internal storage so lost space becomes a minor fraction. Also, given that consumers have shown real interest in the Pro model – which costs more than the RT device – Microsoft has some perhaps unexpected pricing flexibility. Given that, it can expand storage sizes.

The Surface as a whole hasn’t met Microsoft’s internal sales projections, but it certainly remains a key project for the firm; if you had doubts about Microsoft’s commitment to becoming a real OEM, lose them.

Lync and Skype

Finally, a quick hit on the unification of Microsoft’s communication platforms:

Microsoft today announced it has completed the integration of its enterprise-focused Lync tool into the consumer-based Skype service. As a result, Lync and Skype users around the world can now connect with each other on one unified communications platform.

This was long expected, but now happening.

It’s been a long week, get off your damn computer and have an Arnold Palmer. 

Top Image Credit: Robert Scoble