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  (Source: Microsoft)
Is this the start button you're looking for?

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) "Release Preview" builds of the upcoming free Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 upgrades aired today.  Windows 8.1 represents Microsoft's bid to revive slumping personal computer sales and make up for the misses of Windows 8, which led some to pan the ambitious user interface redesign.

The changes in the Release Preview are pretty much along the lines of what was previously shown in media previews:
  • "Start Button", which switches you to the "Modern UI" Home Page
  • Color theme customizations
  • Large and Tiny Live Tiles
  • Batch Live Tile operations (move, etc.)
  • Improved knowledge-enabled global, unified search
  • Side-by-side resizable app panes
  • Improved Windows Store
  • Improved SkyDrive support
  • Camera UI and photo slideshow on lock screen

The first change is the most notable -- and probably the most controversial.

After initially saying that customers no longer were using the Start Button and thus it was gone for good, Microsoft took note of the noisy outcry surrounding this topic and changed its mind, allowing the Start Button to make a comeback in Windows 8.1.  

...well, sort of.  Instead of the traditional Start Button, which pops up a menu of apps (on the same screen) in Desktop Mode, the new "Start Button" yanks you out of Desktop Mode and drops you onto your "Modern UI" (aka "Metro") Home Page.

It's clear that this won't be the Start Button many Windows traditionalists were hoping for.  But it does allow faster transitions to the Modern UI, for better or worse.

Windows 8.1 Preview

Microsoft has a full guide on the other new features here, and a Faq on Windows 8.1 Preview here.  Microsoft warns that some systems with 32-bit Intel Corp. (INTC) Atom processors will need to update their drivers before running Windows 8.1.

To get the update itself, go to the Preview page, which will install the necessary updates, then take you to a download link in Windows Store for the main installer.

Microsoft's annual BUILD Conference for developers is kicking off today and runs through June 28.

Sources: Microsoft [download link], [YouTube], [Blog]

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Evolution ?
By wavetrex on 6/26/2013 3:13:19 PM , Rating: 2
Still looks/feels like crap.

Win 2 -> Win 3.x ( Icons, 16-color bitmaps, Larger memory access )
Win 3.x -> Win 95/98/ME ( Start Menu, Taskbar, 32-bit color support, scalable icons, 3D-ish look, 16/32bit independent OS not on top of DOS )
Win 95 -> Win XP ( Windows NT integration, Fancy skinnable interface )
Win XP -> Win Vista/7 ( New GPU accelerated interface, tranlucency effects, 64 bit, DOT.NET integration )
Win 7 - Win 8.x ( Back to Windows 3.x like graphics, flat, boring, with gay colors, with minimal or no changes in the OS core )

Excellent work Microsoft, managed to turn 22 years of evolution of mouse-driven interface back to the past in one shot !

RE: Evolution ?
By inighthawki on 6/26/2013 3:24:30 PM , Rating: 2
Win 7 - Win 8.x ( Back to Windows 3.x like graphics, flat, boring, with gay colors, with minimal or no changes in the OS core )

The flat graphics (being highly subjective) aside, there are far more improvements, especially under the hood, from 7->8 than you think.

RE: Evolution ?
By SAN-Man on 6/26/2013 5:06:39 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, and none of those under the hood changes (for me) are beneficial enough to warrant an upgrade to Windows 7.

RE: Evolution ?
By inighthawki on 6/26/2013 5:12:55 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't say it did, I just said you were wrong in that respect. Your post implied as if nothing changed in Win8 except a UI which people don't like, which is not true in the slightest.

RE: Evolution ?
By SAN-Man on 6/27/2013 5:09:40 PM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about?

I said the changes weren't worth getting the under the hood stuff. Maybe you replied to the wrong person...

RE: Evolution ?
By inighthawki on 6/28/2013 11:34:35 AM , Rating: 2
No what I meant was that I didn't try to imply that they were good enough for you to warrant an upgrade, but I disagree with your initial thesis stating "with minimal or no changes in the OS core" is completely wrong.

RE: Evolution ?
By timothyd97402 on 6/26/2013 7:20:24 PM , Rating: 2
And none of those under the hood improvements required Microsoft to jam Metro down our throats. If Metro is so damn good then make it optional.

In previous releases we could revert back to earlier themes and versions of the start menu if we chose. We could turn the Sidebar off in Vista/7 if we wanted.

My business customers won't be using the kiddie apps. They will be running their proprietary, line-of-business, desktop programs. They have no use for start screens or much of the rest of Metro. Why can't we just turn it off?

RE: Evolution ?
By kmmatney on 6/27/2013 12:23:34 AM , Rating: 2
The changes under the hood are nice, but nothing is really "must-have". I bought Windows 8 over Windows 7 only because it was a lot cheaper. I'd say the cheaper price was more of a draw than any new features it has.

RE: Evolution ?
By Stan11003 on 6/26/13, Rating: -1
"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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