The search for leaked Windows builds is on, once again, and this time the prize pirate copy has already been overshadowed by reliable reports of what awaits next year. If you're waiting with bated breath for the latest leaked Windows beta, you don't understand the situation.
Russian-language Windows leak site WZOR said on Jan. 8 that the next version of Windows -- dubbed, mellifluously, Windows 8.1 Update 1 and/or GDR 1 and/or Windows 8.1 2014 Update -- will likely leak on Jan. 15, the day Microsoft partners are due to get the bits. That's pretty remarkable 20/20 foresight, but WZOR has demonstrated its prescience repeatedly over the years. WZOR has several screenshots to prove their dominance, but they don't show much besides the build number 6.3.9600.16581.WINBLUES14_GDR_LEAN.13122 2-2030.
Neowin has posted an additional leak screenshot, which appears to come from CentrumWindows.pl (oops?), that shows a whole lotta nothing. Except for the brand in the lower-right corner, it looks just like Windows 8.1.
The WZOR article offers only one interesting tidbit that I didn't pick up last month in my Windows 8 "cause for hope" post: Unlike Windows 8.1, which was released through the Windows Store (if you ever found it), Windows 8.1 Update 1 will arrive via Windows Update. That's a giant step forward -- while, at the same time, being a giant step backward, if you know what I mean -- because many Windows users find it much more intuitive to handle Windows updates through, er, Windows Update.
I have a feeling that one major reason why Microsoft is shifting back to its old distribution model is a question of penetration: Although the upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1 is free and well worth the effort, only a third of the people running Windows 8 (probably fewer) have upgraded to 8.1. Some of the blame must be laid at the foot of the bizarre two-step Windows Store upgrade process.