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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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RE: Start Button
By DigitalFreak on 6/26/2013 6:52:18 PM , Rating: 2
Nope. Start8 has an update coming out today for 8.1

RE: Start Button
By tamalero on 6/26/2013 9:51:14 PM , Rating: 2
hope classic-shell too.
seems Microsoft wants the modern ui BS almost as bad as the Xbox drm.
and they wonder why they are hemorrhaging money.

RE: Start Button
By inighthawki on 6/26/2013 10:08:39 PM , Rating: 2
Last I checked they were doing fine. Stock price was recently (and is still pretty close to) the highest it's been in 5+ years.

RE: Start Button
By BRB29 on 6/27/2013 11:11:47 AM , Rating: 3
and they wonder why they are hemorrhaging money.

I think they're gaining money.

MS is a monopoly. Putting out a bad product doesn't hurt the bottom line all that much when you can force people to pay for it.

RE: Start Button
By Motoman on 6/27/2013 12:33:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, that whole "forcing people to pay for it" thing doesn't seem like it's worked out too well, granted that Gartner, Forrester, and all the major OEMs are blaming Win8 for the massive drop in PC sales.

People *don't* have to buy Win8. And lots of them aren't, and in fact the only reason that MS is changing anything at all is because of that fact.

RE: Start Button
By BRB29 on 6/28/2013 8:42:45 AM , Rating: 2
Almost every single PC that sold have win8 whether people like it or not. Yes sales have been down but win8 still makes money along with their other cash cow called "office".

Historically, every bad OS sold and made profit. They just didn't sell as much. But that gives MS the opportunity to release a "newer and better" OS quickly after instead of the 5-7 year cycle. Overall, people will need to replace their PC and MS will make their money. We considered win8 an utter failure but MS will still make billions in the end.

RE: Start Button
By Motoman on 6/28/2013 1:55:31 PM , Rating: 3
It doesn't matter how you try to frame it now - the irrefutable fact of the matter is that MS (and all the OEMs) would have made a lot MORE over the lifespan on Win8 so far it it either didn't have the Metro UI, or if it also included the option to use the standard Start menu/desktop.

You can declare Win8 a "success" if you want. But there's no doubt they cost themselves, and the whole industry, enormous amounts of money in lost sales.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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