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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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RE: ugh
By althaz on 8/28/2013 2:53:11 AM , Rating: 2
There is an offline installer (that's how I installed it on my machine at work). At least try to know what you are talking about.

No idea what you are talking about with regards to serial number registration, that's not something you have to do with the enterprise version (which is what I use at work).

RE: ugh
By themaster08 on 8/28/2013 3:36:01 AM , Rating: 2
Regarding the serial number registration, it is required to register your serial number with a Microsoft Account for all other versions.

Many of our clients have bought Office 2013 Home and Business as this suits their needs, however we have had to create a dummy Microsoft account for each of our clients, and assign their licenses with their Microsoft Account.

A problem arises when you have more than one license assigned to the same Microsoft account. It is impossible to distinguish between the two when you go to your account to download the software, and when you have 5 or 6 licenses assigned to the same Microsoft account, it can become a real issue.

This issue persists even if you use the offline installer. It asks you to log into your Microsoft Account, and even though you've entered your license key, it gives you the same list of indistinguishable licenses to choose from.

You can't even add a note in to distinguish between these. It doesn't show the license key or even part of it. It's a complete mess.

RE: ugh
By crimson117 on 8/28/2013 11:18:34 AM , Rating: 3
Office 2013 Home and Business as this suits their needs
It is impossible to distinguish between the two when you go to your account to download the software, and when you have 5 or 6 licenses assigned to the same Microsoft account, it can become a real issue.

Sounds like it doesn't suit their needs after all. Why are you suggesting the "Home and Business" version of office to your clients when it has so many problems? Were there even worse problems with Office 365?

RE: ugh
By Monkey's Uncle on 8/28/2013 12:00:45 PM , Rating: 2
With the exception of Outlook, I have dumped MS office in favor of Libre office. Does everything I want MSOffice to do without the forced butt-ugly 'metro' theme.

Now if Libreoffice can come out with an outlook work-alike I would dump that too.

RE: ugh
By wifiwolf on 8/28/2013 2:45:36 PM , Rating: 2
you tried thunderbird?

RE: ugh
By Silver2k7 on 8/29/2013 6:50:32 AM , Rating: 2
Thinking of trying Corel office or Word Perfect :)

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