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Start Button, boot to desktop, tile tweaking, tutorials, and many other changes look to win back customers

It's a time of turbulence for Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world's largest PC operating system maker.  Amidst many struggles, Microsoft's ebullient leader Steve Ballmer announced that he will be stepping down during the next year, a somewhat unintended departure that his critics have long been clamoring for.

I. Ballmer's Bane Revisited

While Windows Vista may be Mr. Ballmer's greatest disappointment, the driving force behind his departure was arguably Windows 8.

Windows 8 started off a promising concept, but fell victim to a myriad of flaws and shortcomings, which have led to the biggest percentage drop in PC sales ever.  One major issue was the scope of the redesign -- Microsoft dropped a very new and different interface on consumers with the graphically rich "Modern UI" (aka Metro) homepage and a slew of new multi-touch gestures.  Where other similarly complex OSs such as Android include a built-in tutorial that helps teach users how to use the new UI, Windows 8 had no such tutorial.  As a result many customers wrote Windows 8 off quickly, "downgrading" to Windows 7.

Other critical flaws in Windows 8 include Microsoft's inability to enforce its intended touchscreen requirement -- a critical pillar of the optimal Windows 8 consumer experience -- and Microsoft's unwillingness to listen to customers who wanted a backup traditional Start Button/Start Menu when in Desktop Mode.

Even as Mr. Ballmer prepares his exit, his company is aiming to fix some of its Windows 8 misses with Windows 8.1.

Windows 8.1 RTmThe Start Button hovers in Windows 8.1 allowing a fast return to the Desktop Mode.  New users are now greeted with tutorials to help them learn the foreign interface in more of a friendly fashion. [Image Source: CNET]

Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT hit Release to Manufacturing (RTM) on Wednesday.  The OS will be released consumers on Oct. 18 as a free update for all Windows 8 users.

II. Windows 8.1 Aims to Turn Around Windows 8 Flop

The RTM build should pack a near complete feature set -- include the aforementioned missing tutorials and Start Button.  While not the Start Button that some consumers were hoping for, the new Start Button hovers familiarly in the lower left-hand corner, allowing you to quickly flip into and out of the Modern UI -- essentially an unrolled Start Menu -- with a click.  Windows 8.1 also restores the ability to boot to desktop -- rather than the Modern UI Homepage.

It also integrates numerous other improvements, including unified themes; new Modern UI core apps; the ability to unpin, group move, and resize tiles at will; and an improved Windows Store.

Windows 8.1 Preview
Microsoft has taken a gamble by putting the people behind Windows 8 and its mobile twin Windows Phone 8 in key positions of leadership, during the recent executive shakeup.  This is a clear testimony to the fact that while Mr. Ballmer may be being shuffled out the door, Microsoft's Board of Directors believes the company was headed in the right direction with Windows 8 and merely failed on the delivery.

Windows 7, Microsoft's greatest sales success, was born out of the ashes of the poorly received Windows Vista.  Likewise Microsoft is looking to hone the sooty carbon of Windows 8 into a diamond with Windows 8.1.  Windows 8.1 RTM is the last major milestone in that pre-release refinement process.

Source: Microsoft

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By SeeManRun on 8/27/2013 7:44:25 PM , Rating: 1
If they do the $39 again they will have a hit. If they want to sell for $120 or whatever the regular Windows 8 price is, I can see disappointment on the horizon.

RE: Price
By Monkey's Uncle on 8/27/2013 7:58:30 PM , Rating: 2
It'll be a free upgrade to those that bought the $39 Windows 8 upgrades. Of you didn't get Windows 8, I am assuming you will have to go either buy Win 8 first then get the free upgrade or pay full price for 8.1.

I doubt they will provide a $39 Win7->8.1 upgrade, but I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time Microsoft made a liar out of me.

RE: Price
By SeeManRun on 8/28/2013 12:32:49 AM , Rating: 2
Well, that is going to be a problem then. The reason it was $39 was because it sucked, and they dropped the price to drive adoption. Since they didn't get any adoption, perhaps they think this OS will stand on its own merits. The only issue with that is that people know they could have had it for $39 but it is now $120, and they will resist buying it because of the knowledge it was once 33% the price you are paying now, and must not be worth $120.

Not sure what the psychological term is called, but I am sure there is one.

RE: Price
By Monkey's Uncle on 8/29/2013 8:37:41 PM , Rating: 2
It's the "I'm not stupid" syndrome and it is pretty common when dealing with Microsoft.

At $120+ I can guarantee that full Windows 8.1 licenses will not be selling very well - just like $120 Windows 8 licenses aren't selling very well today.

"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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