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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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Attention Microsoft
By SAN-Man on 8/27/2013 9:06:38 PM , Rating: 1
You must think we're morons.

We don't LIKE or WANT Metro. We want the task bar. We want the start button with Windows 7 functionality.

What do we want out of Windows 8? The under the hood optimizations. That's about it. It should work and function like Windows 7.


I have already switched my work PC to Linux Mint earlier this year. My personal laptop and personal desktop still use Windows 7 Enterprise and I have ZERO plans to change this. If I do change it, it will be to Linux Mint 15.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By Bubbacub on 8/28/2013 6:10:32 AM , Rating: 2
mint ftw

RE: Attention Microsoft
By damianrobertjones on 8/28/2013 8:20:51 AM , Rating: 2
...Because that would be easier? Let's install a new OS, find drivers, pith around for ages, try to get everything working, find the applications we use or alternatives AND learn a new UI (Not bad though)

or just get used to the Modern UI or stay with Windows 7

RE: Attention Microsoft
By retrospooty on 8/28/2013 10:14:10 AM , Rating: 3
That does sound like alot of effort. Staying with Win7 is a great option.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By Argon18 on 8/28/13, Rating: 0
RE: Attention Microsoft
By Breakfast Susej on 8/28/2013 11:34:33 AM , Rating: 2
Let's be fair. I am a linux user as well, and while "most" of the time the kernel has drivers for everything, when it doesn't you're waiting for a new kernel for your stuff to work, or hoping there's a driver you can build a module from.

Often if you buy brand new hardware you are going to be out of luck for a while.

I built a system I had to put an old dlink nic in to get network support because there was no kernel support or drivers in existence for the onboard nic. The same system works fine now with a newer kernel. But again, to the typical windows user, building a kernel module or updating the kernel is a very alien concept to someone used to downloading a driver installer package.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By Moishe on 8/30/2013 2:21:21 PM , Rating: 2
Riiiight. Linux "just works" for simple, common things that most people do. Want to be a power user or do something a little different? Nope. It doesn't just work.

People, even techies, want to just turn a computer on and use it.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By SAN-Man on 8/28/2013 4:28:16 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, Mint isn't like that. It's a seamless install and desktop experience with very few driver issues, about what you would find with Windows.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By Reclaimer77 on 8/28/2013 7:54:35 AM , Rating: 5
8.1 is essentially a big FU from Microsoft.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By retrospooty on 8/28/2013 8:30:03 AM , Rating: 5
LOL... So true.

MS - "You want the start button back? Fine, we'll give you the start button back and make it so it brings you right back to the irritating inefficient interface that makes you want the start button back."

Nice... Way to totally miss the point.

New leadership... You had better get it for Windows 9.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By OoklaTheMok on 8/28/13, Rating: -1
RE: Attention Microsoft
By retrospooty on 8/28/2013 11:46:57 AM , Rating: 4
Dont assume I dont know. I have the dev of 8.1 preview on a spare laptop and have used 8 since it's dev preview... Using Windows installing building repairing PC's since the early Win 3.1 days. I do it professionally and personally on the side and have more experience in my little finger than most people will ever have.

I actually use 8 and am typing from it right now. I use classic shell to get my decent 7 like functionality back and it works great... The issue isn't the minority nerds like us that visit tech sites like this, its the "millions and millions of dumbfounded dipshits" that cant get it to work they way they need it to that are the issue.

MS really screwed the pooch here. Surely you can see that.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By Breakfast Susej on 8/28/2013 11:57:48 AM , Rating: 2
You're so down to earth and humble too.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By retrospooty on 8/28/2013 12:10:36 PM , Rating: 1
Sorry, I was responding to this ignorant comment "If you had any clue regarding what you are talking about" so I wanted to point out exactly how ignorant it was. ;)

RE: Attention Microsoft
By damianrobertjones on 8/28/13, Rating: -1
RE: Attention Microsoft
By ZorkZork on 8/28/2013 10:07:18 AM , Rating: 2
You cannot ignore the new UI. It keeps popping up here and there even after you thought you had disabled it everywhere.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By inighthawki on 8/28/2013 11:18:27 AM , Rating: 2
As much as I normally agree with the common standing on metro, this is a lie. Ive been using windows 8 for over a year now and I haven't seen metro in almost that entire time.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By crimson117 on 8/28/2013 11:21:43 AM , Rating: 2
You never tried to open a picture?

RE: Attention Microsoft
By inighthawki on 8/28/2013 11:29:06 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, and then you click the popup in the top right of the screen and select the desktop photo viewer and you never see it again.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By ZorkZork on 8/28/2013 12:15:43 PM , Rating: 2
Every time you need to connect to a new WiFi network Metro shows its ugly face. And more ...

RE: Attention Microsoft
By inighthawki on 8/28/2013 12:55:45 PM , Rating: 2
I assumed when you said metro you were referring to the fullscreen apps. If that's the case I suppose you have an argument, but tbh those flyout menus are one of the few things I really like about Win8's interface.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By Moishe on 8/30/2013 2:23:48 PM , Rating: 2
The charms is one of the really good ideas. It's really the full-screen apps and their steps backward that is so annoying to most.

RE: Attention Microsoft
By kmmatney on 8/28/2013 7:15:22 PM , Rating: 2
I'm the same - however it took a lot of work to get rid of all the Metro/ModernUI crap, with several registry tweaks. I still haven't completely figured out how to get rid of the charms bar, but it is a lot less intrusive after a few registry edits. What I would have really liked was an option to completely remove everything ModernUI related. I'm really not liking the continued lack of choice Microsoft is giving us, and it's getting worse every release. Forced full screen Apps with no close button for the desktop? Really?

RE: Attention Microsoft
By Piiman on 9/14/2013 2:25:13 PM , Rating: 2
" Ive been using windows 8 for over a year now and I haven't seen metro in almost that entire time. "


RE: Attention Microsoft
By johnsmith9875 on 9/4/2013 1:21:05 PM , Rating: 2
Server 2012 disables the tiles UI in the registry so while it is possible, its not easy.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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