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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: 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. ;)

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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