As we have been waiting for it, Sitecore 8.1 is now released. That is a feature version, and it has such a massive what's-new and improvements list, that it may take you just 20 minutes to read it through!
Everything can be downloaded from official SDN website, as usual. If you are using Sitecore Instance Manager, please update it to latest version to support latest build (and rename it according to SIM naming convention -Sitecore 8.1 rev. 151003.zip. If not - it is now a good time to consider that handy software (read my article about it).
Also Sitecore xDB Cloud should get out of beta along with 8.1 release - there is now xDB Cloud Usage Policy available there.
So, briefly, what are new / fixed features?
- SPEAK updated to 2.0 - now there's less SPEAK plumbing to go with it, more time to concentrate on business logic (link)
- Sitecore 8 may now function as normal with xDB disabled - this is called CMS-only mode (link)
- MVC Areas now work out-of-the-box (link)
- Experience Editor improvements (both functional and performance)
- Multiple xDB and Analytics improvements, new Path Analyzer
- Contact Behavior Profile - enabled "dynamic" personalization based on previous contact activity (sort of artificial intellect)
- Language Fallback now works out-of-the-box
- xDB now fully support Mongo 3.0
- Analytics got more missing UI
- Sitecore subscription-based services
- Device Detection (as subscription-based service) now identifies device types out of box bases on hundreds of params
- Geo IP now is a subscription-based service
- CMS-only mode (link)
- Shared / versioned layouts improvements
- All associated modules updated as well (WFFM, ECM, etc.)
Breaking licensing change: Sitecore 8.1 now requires a license with the “Sitecore.xDB” key to enable all features of the Experience Platform. If your license file does not contain this key, Sitecore will default to Experience Management (CMS-only) mode. Any customers or partners with a license to Experience Platform should contact their account manager or login to SPN if they are missing this key.
Read more by official Release Notes link