So Microsoft had an about face as regards releasing 8.1 early to TechNet and MSDN subscribers and made it available for download on 9th September.
I've now downloaded it and nuked my work PC so that I can get some out of the box impressions, rather than try the update route for my existing Windows 8 installation. Initial impressions are that the interface is a little more cohesive, but I'm not entirely sure that those that have been complaining about Win 8 will really be any happier.
There's the much talked about return of the start button, but this really doesn't do anything of note as it just returns you back to the 'Metro' interface. This was what happened anyway if you clicked in that region of the screen, so no real change there.
What I do like now is that the search functionality is 'universal'; so when you press the Windows key and starting typing, it searches everything on the PC. Previously if I was trying to uninstall something, I would have to press the Win key, type "unin", then press the tab key so that the search would continue in Settings, rather the default Apps context. Now it searches in Apps, Settings and indeed across the whole PC, which I think is far more logical.
What however isn't logical is that Libraries seem to have been deprecated. After encouraging us for years to use these virtual libraries for documents, music, videos etc., they have just disappeared in 8.1 in favour of everything being thrown into the SkyDrive, more of which in a moment.
Getting the libraries back is easy enough - Press the Win + E keyboard combination to open a new explorer window, then right-click anywhere in the navigation pane and click on Show Libraries when the context menu appears. But why remove them in the first place? There seems to be a bit of a conspiracy theory going on that Microsoft really want you to buy further into the cloud capabilities of SkyDrive, which ultimately means that you might pour more money into Microsoft in order to purchase more space.
Whether that really is the case or not remains to be seen, but there seem to be some unnecessary playing around going with the default folder views when you initially start Windows Explorer. So there's a few things that are new in 8.1, but nothing that really fundamentally changes the OS it would seem.