In a blog post this morning, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) revealed it will release its latest version of the Windows 8 operating system -- Windows 8.1 -- on Oct. 17.

The update will be free for Windows 8 users beginning at 12 a.m. New Zealand time on Oct. 18, the company said -- noting that is 4 a.m. Oct. 17 in Redmond, Wash., time -- and will be available worldwide through the Windows Store at that time. The company also said the new update will be available at retail on new devices on Oct. 18 as well.

Microsoft said in the post that "Windows 8.1 continues the vision we began with Windows 8 and is an example of our commitment to continuous innovation and improvement for our customers."

Updates to the software include:

  • Software personalization
  • Internet Explorer 11
  • New built-in Bing apps including Food & Drink and Health & Fitness and "significant" updates to the Bing Maps app
  • Improved Windows Store
  • Cloud connection with SkyDrive

Microsoft said many on the new features are available in Windows 8.1 Preview, which is already available for download. 

"It's very exciting to be delivering Windows 8.1 to consumers just before Windows 8 celebrates its 1-year anniversary," the company said, promising more information about Windows 8.1 as the launch date approaches.