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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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By althaz on 8/28/2013 3:06:59 AM , Rating: 0
Metro apps load basically instantly for me, so I'm confused by this comment? Do you perhaps have an HDD-equipped PC (yuk)? I have win 8 on my home desktop and Surface Pro - both have good SSDs, so I haven't experienced this.

It does make sense to not have a taskbar...but I agree that it makes more sense to have it.

I'm not sure what you mean by "easily see what is happening on my computer and what is open"? Unless you are expanding on your previous complaint, meaning: Metro apps should show up on the taskbar (this is something that should DEFINITELY be done, agreed).

Resizing of windows is something that I'm positive MS is trying to bring to Metro apps...they just haven't figured out an elegant way of doing it yet. That's a key obstacle to overcome that would make metro apps worth using on the desktop (this is a non-issue on tablets).

Windows Key + arrow should work with metro apps if it doesn't (I don't use any metro apps on my desktop), that's kinda dumb.

The Windows 8 experience is great on tablets and on PCs - unfortunately metro apps are not as good as the OS itself. On PCs it's better than Win7 in every conceivable way and on tablets its gone from "unusable mess" to "best UX of any mobile platform".

The Start Menu is a worthless piece of shit that MS was correct to abandon. The Start Menu is a metric fuckton better (in 8.1 - in 8.0 the search function is worse than in 7). It allows the use of muscle memory and displays many orders of magnitude more information at a glance.

The taskbar should have been made a first-class member of the Win8 experience though - it would really help to join the desktop and tablet experience together.


"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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