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  (Source: The Verge)
Microsoft tries to win back customers

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is stuck in a Vista-like mire of depressed personal computer (PC) sales.  It can blame part of that on the shift towards mobile devices, but at the end of the day it is at least partially culpable.

With Windows 8, the company made a bold bid to reinvent its aging operating system (OS) franchise, adding in improved touch technology support and other long hoped for features.  But the result felt clunky at times with a mouse and keyboard, and especially alienated enthusiasts, who compared it to Vista or -- even worse -- Windows ME.  This less than enthusiastic reception seemed to color the views of everyday users as well, some of which didn't enjoy the new look.

The resultant sales woes were a black spot on an otherwise admirable earnings report for Microsoft.  Microsoft is in the midst of a leadership change, hunting for a new CEO.

Microsoft's first major bid to win customers back arrived with the launch of Windows 8.1 last October, a major free update that added back the ability to boot to desktop and the Start Button (albeit in Modern UI form).

Now it appears Microsoft is looking to make more revisions to its troubled creation, with a Windows 8.1 Service Pack, due out in March 2014.  The biggest addition is an apology of sorts to Mouse users -- the restoration of the title bar.

Control Panel + Title Bar
The Control Panel link in the Modern UI settings (bottom left) and Title Bar (top) are seen here.
[Image Source: The Verge]

For those who don't know what that is, the title bar is the bar found at the top of running app windows in Windows 7 and earlier.  The bar includes an 'X' button to close the app, a button to minimize, and stacked button to enter or exit maximized mode.

With Windows 8, the title bar was seen on apps running in legacy (Desktop) mode, but was gone in Modern UI apps (aka, Metro apps).  While most power users use keyboard shortcuts in place of the slow Title bar buttons, for casual-to-mid level users who relied on the mouse-driven interface, its disappearance was a major headache.

Now it's returning in an attempt to make life easier on the mouse-using masses.  A build of the upcoming Service Pack which leaked this week shows a minimize and close button on the right-hand corner of the bar and a gear icon on the left-hand corner.  The gear opens a menu that allows you to control the app paneling with a click in Modern UI/Metro, versus having to use gestures or keyboard shortcuts previously.

Windows 8.1 update
The Windows 8.1 Metro homescreen now includes search and shutdown buttons, similar to the old Start Menu, which it essentially is an unwrapped version of. [Image Source: The Verge]

There's other "duh" worthy inclusion, such as Microsoft including search and power buttons that hover over the Modern UI menu, and allow right clicks on Modern UI app icons to bring up a set of options, including UI customization options (resizing tiles, etc.).  The date and time is still painfully absent in the modern UI, but these changes look likely to make the new user interface feel a bit more useful and familiar.

right click
Right click in Metro will soon allow you to do stuff... yay. [Image Source: The Verge]

There's also an option in Metro/Modern UI under "PC Settings", which allows you to access the full Control Panel (in Desktop Mode) by clicking a link.  Lastly, in Desktop mode, you can now see Modern UI apps in the taskbar and preview them.

Windows 8.1 SP1 leak
Previews of Metro apps in Desktop mode -- whoa. [Image Source: The Verge]

The released build, compiled on Jan. 14, is rumored to have some minor bugs.

The final build of the Service Pack is expected to roll off the presses at Microsoft on March 11, according to ZDNet's sources.  That places it just ahead of Microsoft's annual BUILD conference, which runs April 2-4.

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HTPC use
By Jeffk464 on 2/3/2014 2:16:46 PM , Rating: 4
Here is one, make windows media center free and installable on all additions of win 8. Anytime I build a media pc I will be installing win7 for this reason alone.

RE: HTPC use
By Jeffk464 on 2/3/14, Rating: -1
RE: HTPC use
By Motoman on 2/3/2014 2:22:21 PM , Rating: 5
That would be a great idea...if their goal is to go bankrupt.

RE: HTPC use
By CaedenV on 2/3/2014 2:30:24 PM , Rating: 2
On the contrary, I think that with win9 we will see desktop apps finally available in the windows store, as well as the ability to have metro apps live on the desktop. No reason to get rid of desktop or metro. They both bring things to the table, and different mixes of each are better for different people.

Personally I love the metro interface as a UI for managing the computer, and then the desktop as a way to interact with programs and multitask

RE: HTPC use
By Jeffk464 on 2/3/2014 4:29:34 PM , Rating: 2
Really does anyone prefer 8.1 to android on a tablet? Like I said compared to android or iOS its a mess. Win 7 on a desktop or laptop is an awesome OS but win 8.1 is not great on a tablet and its not great on a desktop. Its like designing a car that's also a boat, you end up with a vehicle that sucks as both.

RE: HTPC use
By Imaginer on 2/3/2014 4:58:08 PM , Rating: 2
It takes a new shift in device usage and requirements. For me, it is one "all capable" software device, with the most peripheral compatibility with my current and future devices, with my current and future software, that I can be very mobile with while reducing the number and bulk for support and additional "computing" devices.

This is where hybrids, convertibles, and the now tablet PC falls in here.

You mentioned "like a car boat", and I would agree - in past tablet PC offerings with swivel hinges. Today, you can find any deployment form factor and it would get better as time goes on.

For the record, I really like my Surface Pro 2, but I also understand that the keyboard option (if you heavily rely on it) may not be "ideal" in some user device deployments (lap, not as ideal angles for a desk with the kickstand).

It is also for the same reasons why I did not jump to an Android tablet or Apple iPad. Both do not offer any more viable software computing offerings and a hardware offering that I do not already make use of (a laptop I had before). Even when I did get the Kindle Fire, I was limited and find myself dominantly using my desktop and laptop anyways with surfing. My Kindle Fire, also did not travel much, even though it can.

RE: HTPC use
By inighthawki on 2/3/2014 8:02:25 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I do. If someone offered to replace my Windows 8.1 install on my tablet with Android or iOS I would laugh my *ss off.

RE: HTPC use
By Da W on 2/4/2014 6:29:22 AM , Rating: 1
Really, android tablet? WTF is that? Are you asissy or someting?

I dig my surface pro. Everything is synced with my monster pc in the basement. I can use it to work on my documents. Takes notes in meeting with the pen. Play all my emultors, old games or app store games.

Thereisn'ta thing that my android phone can do that my windows tablet can't do. But there arealot of things an android tablet cannot do and never will.

RE: HTPC use
By damianrobertjones on 2/4/2014 7:58:04 AM , Rating: 1
Yes. (An owner of a Surface Pro 2).

It's stupidly easy to use and, in all honesty, I find Android to be a mangled slight mess.


RE: HTPC use
By Helbore on 2/4/2014 1:14:53 PM , Rating: 1
I had an android tablet and barely used it. My Surface Pro 2 has replaced my home desktop and work laptop.

So yeah, I much prefer Windows 8.1 to android. In every way.

RE: HTPC use
By Solandri on 2/3/2014 7:00:13 PM , Rating: 5
On the contrary, I think that with win9 we will see desktop apps finally available in the windows store,

Well, that's Microsoft's hope. The reason they're trying to force Metro down everyone's throat is because you have to install Metro apps via the Store. And Microsoft gets a 30% cut of everything that's sold through the Store. Metro apps can only be installed outside the Store if you have a developer's license or Enterprise edition of Win 8 (a concession to corporate customers distributing in-house software).

If they can get users to adopt Metro, then 3rd party software developers will be forced to sell through the Store. And Microsoft will get 30% of their revenue. That's the fish Microsoft is trying to reel in here - 30% of Adobe's, SAP's, CA's, Symantec's, Intuit's, etc's revenue. They don't give a damn whether or not it's actually better for the user.

This is also the reason why established 3rd party software developers will stay as far away from the Store as they can. And I'm inclined to support them in staying away. The success of the App Store and Google Play is attributable to the software industry resisting downloadable software when clearly customers wanted it. But having one or two companies act as gatekeeper to the online store and taking a monstrous 30% cut is simply bad for the industry. (It's more complicated than that because packaged software has to go through a publisher, who takes an even more monstrous cut - typically 50%-80%. But the correct percentage these stores should be taking is a little over the cost to operate them, which is probably a few percent. Unfortunately we'll never get there unless there's competition or regulation.)

RE: HTPC use
By Jeffk464 on 2/3/2014 8:07:13 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft gets a 30% cut of everything that's sold through the Store

Yeah this is unacceptable, windows became the default standard because it was the most open platform at the time.

RE: HTPC use
By Da W on 2/4/2014 6:34:06 AM , Rating: 2
Actually Apple takes 30%. Ms takes 20% and only 1% beyond a certain volume of sales.

Yet i agree with you, but if Windows 9 became vastly popular and both metro and desktop app had to be sold only through MS own's app store, it would create a huge antitrust issue like we've never seen.

RE: HTPC use
By Da W on 2/3/2014 3:11:13 PM , Rating: 2
Just put freaking tiles on the desktop and be done with it!

RE: HTPC use
By Motoman on 2/3/2014 6:49:28 PM , Rating: 2
Widgets since Vista would already do anything the tiles do.

RE: HTPC use
By domboy on 2/4/2014 9:19:07 AM , Rating: 2
Just put freaking tiles on the desktop and be done with it!

I've had that though as well... we almost don't really need a start screen. A sort of active desktop background with the tiles (and of course regular icons) on them would probably work just as well, possibly better as you wouldn't have to keep switching between desktop and start screen.

RE: HTPC use
By GladeCreek on 2/5/2014 10:00:24 AM , Rating: 2
I hate to say it but I think for win9 they have to kill off desktop mode.

This comment shouldn't have been rated down - it's dead on. Microsoft's push is to get rid of the legacy desktop. To us power users, legacy support is the biggest advantage Windows has, but to MS it's the biggest headache. It's an enormous burden to test every patch for backwards compatibility with decades of software.

MS expects to have 91% API compatibility in 'Metro' across all platforms by the end of the year - PC, tablet, phone, Xbox.

Desktop mode is going away sooner or later. I believe the plan will be 'Metro' for all, and application virtualization (App-V) to support legacy apps in businesses that just can't update for whatever reason.

RE: HTPC use
By arazok on 2/3/2014 2:38:15 PM , Rating: 2
There’s license fees that MS needs to pay for Media Center to work correctly. Only 2% of windows installs use MCE, so it make sense for MS to charge a small fee to cover the license fees of the tiny number of people using it.

But your right. It makes NO sense for anyone to use Win 8 for MCE when the Win 7 version is still free. It also works better, as a lot of stuff broke in Win 8 and there are NO new features. Typical Microsoft. Create a great product, and if it isn’t overwhelmingly successful immediately, let it rot to ensure it never becomes anything more.

I’d give my left arm for a version of MCE that isn’t as finicky with HDMI and sound issues, never looses focus and forcing me to connect a keyboard, and doesn’t cause all sorts of problems with apps like Netflix because I don’t live in the USA. The app is perfect, and all they need for wider adoption is to make work more like a cable box (reliable), and less like a windows app with all it’s configuration headaches.

RE: HTPC use
By Flunk on 2/3/2014 3:28:42 PM , Rating: 2
You might want to try XBMC instead of MCE, it has all the features you mention.

RE: HTPC use
By HoosierEngineer5 on 2/3/2014 4:02:54 PM , Rating: 2
You seem to be describing SageTV. Unfortunately, Google scooped up the company and crushed it.

I can play blu-rays with nothing more than a mid-range AMD Trinity.

I have been using it since digital TV first came out. They were the first to get the electronic program guide working well.

RE: HTPC use
By HoosierEngineer5 on 2/3/2014 4:03:31 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, and use LAV filters. Even works on XP.

RE: HTPC use
By KurgSmash on 2/3/2014 5:09:17 PM , Rating: 2
Media center is dead. Sadly, because I wish MS had kept it up to date and I actually use it as my sole DVR/TV system at home, but it's dead.

RE: HTPC use
By DiscoWade on 2/4/2014 8:38:45 AM , Rating: 2
W8 Media Center does not support extenders. Even if it was free, I still wouldn't use it because of that.

RE: HTPC use
By CZroe on 2/4/2014 11:01:28 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. As great as it is, I can't believe Microsoft left WMC to rot. It should be a killer app but they never really marketed it. :( To see people praise TiVo and pay service fees for BS set-top boxes with inferior UIs has grated on my nerves long enough.

Anyway, I assume you're not the old Something Awful JeffK unless modern auto-correct is amazing (missed "additions" != editions). ;)

RE: HTPC use
By Myrandex on 2/4/2014 3:04:00 PM , Rating: 2
Awe something awful and JeffK...that brings back plenty of good high school memories. :)

Win 7 extended support ends in 2020
By zlandar on 2/3/2014 3:39:14 PM , Rating: 2
I have 6 years for MS to get this tablet UI garbage off my desktop.

What do I want on Win 9? An improved Windows Media Center. Continued optimization of the OS. That's it.

I don't know why MS doesn't buy Plex and integrate it into WMC. They putz around with all this tablet UI trash when a killer app would be creating a destkop or HTPC that could handle cable and digital movies/video a non-techie could setup.

Quit catering to the Angry Bird crowd. Start catering to the old fogies like me who actually have the money to buy the OS you are hawking with the features I want.

By Jeffk464 on 2/3/2014 4:44:18 PM , Rating: 2
Win 7 is already pretty darn good as a media device, for some reason people just wouldn't bite. My guess is people get the box from the cable company and never think about it. But I could think of some improvements for sure.

By Gungel on 2/3/2014 4:48:33 PM , Rating: 2
Media Browser 3 with the Classic client that supports Cablecard TV is another great solution for your media streaming needs.

I have to give Microsoft some credit
By cditty on 2/3/2014 5:50:10 PM , Rating: 2
They made a mistake the way they threw Windows 8 out. I do think they deserve credit for continuing to go back an improve the mouse/keyboard experience.

Microsoft is moving a lot faster under the new development situation. I use 8.1 daily and it made it better. It is certainly faster and safer than the older OS's (I will always have a soft spot for Win 7, though).

When this feature pack is realeased, they are basically fixing Windows 8 to an OS that works equally as well on devices and traditional PC's.

When 9/Threshold is released, having a common development environment between tablets, phones, Xbox, & PC's, developers will have a much easier time.

It sucks to make a mistake, but I think they deserve credit for continually fixing it and recognizing the mistake.

By croc on 2/4/2014 1:26:33 AM , Rating: 2
The UEFI in WIn 8 variants has a built-in NSA back door. Feel safer now?

No it can't. No it can't.
By SAN-Man on 2/4/2014 7:54:34 AM , Rating: 2
It can blame part of that on the shift towards mobile devices

You guys keep saying this, but it isn't true, it just makes for an easy talking point without having to do much thinking. Stop it already.

RE: No it can't. No it can't.
By Dr of crap on 2/4/2014 9:01:20 AM , Rating: 2
And you'd blame it on - ?

By Ammohunt on 2/3/2014 3:44:08 PM , Rating: 2
So who leaked it and why?

Dear Microsoft
By inperfectdarkness on 2/3/2014 5:20:34 PM , Rating: 2
Dear Microsoft,

I have a folder in the lower left hand corner of my 8.1 desktop labeled "Start Menu Programs". It has things like Skype, TrueCrypt and even Control Panel shortcuts in it, because I don't want to store program apps on my desktop, and I don't like having to pin everything to the taskbar.

You know why? Because 8.1 is a wonderful, wonderful OS...except for the interface. Because full retard. So now I have a make-shift Windows Start Menu because you would rather spend time forcing console gaming DRM and mobile computing down peoples throats...rather than actually giving consumers what they want.

Tell you what, why don't you form an alliance with Sony's Playstation; Sony makes the hardware, and everyone gets to use LIVE for online gaming. Then, with the money you save (on what is otherwise me-too duplicate-console-hardware) you can hire or re-hire some programmers to work on windows 9 who didn't get baked on peyote before coming up with the "brilliant" idea that is windows 8.


-Everyone who has ever bought one of your products

Good if they fix the UI ...
By ZorkZork on 2/3/2014 5:34:25 PM , Rating: 2
... but I suspect we will only get some of the way. At the core the Metro/Modern/whatever UI will remain a tablet UI.

Much more important than the UI, Microsoft should change rules rules for distribution of these Metro/Modern/whatever apps. They should everyone to setup a store - they can even say that competing stores must be "sideloaded" or something (like Google does with Android).

That way, if I choose to develop a modern UI app, I will not be locked into distributing it through the Windows store at the mercy of whatever rules comes out of Redmond.

Won't change a thing.
By coburn_c on 2/3/2014 5:42:12 PM , Rating: 2
Good changes to a good OS. Won't make the pirates stop whining about it on the internet. They should just let them steal it if they want the good buzz.

Closing programs...
By delphinus100 on 2/5/2014 10:23:10 PM , Rating: 2
The bar includes an 'X' button to close the app

So, does it really, truly honest to God, give up memory and other system resources, close it, or just hide somewhere and continue to hog clock cycles until you 'want' it again (which may not be a week and several shutdowns later)?

When I close a program, app, whatever, you may assume I'm truly done with it. And if that means taking two more seconds to open it from scratch problem.

By datdamonfoo on 2/3/14, Rating: -1
RE: Clock
By datdamonfoo on 2/3/2014 2:17:57 PM , Rating: 2
Also, I should also point out that the "date" is ALWAYS there. The default calendar app always shows the date on its tile.

RE: Clock
By domboy on 2/3/2014 2:50:01 PM , Rating: 3
Because I shouldn't have to swipe to see something that should be visible at a glance... along with network status and battery level. I hope the next step will be to allow the taskbar to be made visible when running a modern ui program, same as it can be made to auto-hide on the desktop (which I really dislike).

Having the title bar is back is an improvement... as I would much rather just tap (or click) an X to close an app than drag it down to close it (and I hear 8.1 you have to hold it there for a few seconds).

RE: Clock
By rsmech on 2/3/2014 9:13:07 PM , Rating: 3
For all the complainers they allow boot to desktop. Now all this whining is cluttering my clean looking metro UI. If you want a clock, network status, battery level, little X in the corner use desktop. Your ruining my experience. I hope they put a power button option in desktop so that ugly user, search, power button doesn't appear on what was supposed to be a clean interface. Quit putting your desktop on my metro. If I want to look at all the garbage I can just 1 click desktop. Adding everyone's complaints to metro and not desktop is ruining windows 8.

RE: Clock
By domboy on 2/4/2014 9:26:04 AM , Rating: 2
You do realize the modern ui is the only current gui that has no visible notification/status/taskbar right? Correct me if I'm wrong, but all desktop and mobile ui that I can think of have one, and that's what I most dislike about modern ui. Info like time, battery level, network status, etc, should be available at a glance, and no, a tile is not a replacement, and neither is having to swipe. That's why I suggest it as an option, that way you can keep your stuff hidden and swipe for everything, and those what want it visible can make it so.

Sure there are times when it can be hidden like games and video... the few apps that should be full screen.

RE: Clock
By datdamonfoo on 2/4/2014 1:21:31 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't true, though. The lockscreen of the Modern UI has battery level, network status etc. at a glance, including a clock. And you could always download an app that can show you these things on a live tile, and, unlike every other GUI, it's modular, so you can pick what status tiles you want and where they are on the screen.

RE: Clock
By Flunk on 2/3/2014 3:30:07 PM , Rating: 2
Or you can just attach a clock tile, there are literally tiles for everything.

RE: Clock
By Guspaz on 2/3/2014 4:33:28 PM , Rating: 5
Touchscreens are pretty much non-exitant on desktop PCs. How exactly do I "swipe"?

RE: Clock
By Imaginer on 2/3/2014 5:00:27 PM , Rating: 2
You have the clock and date on the taskbar of the desktop. Unless you want to overlap windows of programs on the Start screen... Or work entirely in the Start screen, there is no reason to "swipe" or edge mouse over the right corners.

And there are few modern apps I would run on the desktop anyways (and possibly most user cases).

And there are plenty of live tile clock apps, free and paid.

RE: Clock
By rsmech on 2/3/14, Rating: -1
RE: Clock
By Reclaimer77 on 2/3/2014 11:08:51 PM , Rating: 2
Why would he be joking? The only way you have a touchscreen right now on a PC is if you have a select few All-in-One systems, or a select few laptops/ultrabooks that support multitouch screens.

I've never owned a touchscreen monitor in my entire life and neither have most people who use PC's. Wtf are YOU talking about?

RE: Clock
By rsmech on 2/4/14, Rating: -1
RE: Clock
By rsmech on 2/4/2014 11:22:46 PM , Rating: 2
The ratings are seriously sad. You guy's can drag your mouse all over windows 7 desktop and complain about clicking and dragging the mouse in Windows 8. Please keep your 7 it's taken 13 years to learn how to use a mouse. I'd hate to see you try and figure 8 out.

Mouse Neanderthals have at me.

RE: Clock
By rsmech on 2/4/2014 11:32:34 PM , Rating: 2
18 plus years

RE: Clock
By datdamonfoo on 2/10/2014 12:54:20 PM , Rating: 2
You don't even NEED to swipe if you have a non-touch screen. Just put your mouse in an active corner and move it vertically.

By Motoman on 2/3/14, Rating: -1
RE: Slander!
By sdsdv10 on 2/3/2014 2:52:37 PM , Rating: 1
Vista was infinitely more successful than Win8. And hated infinitely less.

LOL, some of us Windows Vista Ultimate buyers beg to differ... :P

RE: Slander!
By W00dmann on 2/3/2014 3:30:11 PM , Rating: 2
Windows 8: it burns! It burns!

RE: Slander!
By Flunk on 2/3/2014 3:31:23 PM , Rating: 2
Uptake rates are similar between the two. A lot of people hated Vista.

RE: Slander!
By Motoman on 2/3/2014 6:54:54 PM , Rating: 4

No, the adoption rate on Vista was considerably faster.

People hated Vista, but the problems weren't Vista's per se...and at the end of the day, at least you could still use it. Nowhere near the hatred that Win8/Metro gets.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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