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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 damianrobertjones on 8/28/2013 8:19:46 AM , Rating: -1
You are. Sorry but i had to say it.

You HAVE Windows 7 with a new UI that you can pretty much ignore. I've seen it where I work... There's hardly any need for the start menu to exist.

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.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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