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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 Da W on 8/28/2013 9:34:08 AM , Rating: 3
You don't have to buy it. You can stick with windows 7 for the next 7 years.

Stop buying cheap google tablets and microsoft won't feel the need to change so drasticly.


RE: ugh
By ZorkZork on 8/28/2013 10:04:42 AM , Rating: 3
I think I will do something much more simple: I'll give up on Microsoft instead - I suspect a lot of people will do the same - instead of this crazy mix of stuff that is Windows 8 then people will go for the real Android stuff. At least it is made for tablets/phones and Google Play is not a walled garden like the Windows Store.

Sticking with Windows 7 is not an option - everybody knows that once a new version of Windows is out, then the old one will get minimal support.


RE: ugh
By Da W on 8/28/2013 1:17:38 PM , Rating: 2
People worked with windows XP for 13 years you clearly have no clue of what your talking about.
It shows, thinking you can do serious stuff with a google tablet.

How can you dump microsoft products to move to android (or linux) when your complain is that Windows 8 should be more like Windows 7 cause windows 7 was perfect?????????????


RE: ugh
By ZorkZork on 8/29/2013 2:37:36 AM , Rating: 2
And how much support did XP get in the end? Security fixes only.

And while I like Windows as an OS then the UI sucks so much that I prefer the various Linux incarnations. Obviously there is a learning curve but the Linux UI is generally as good as Windows 7.

And when I want a tablet I choose one with an OS made for tablets with loads of apps and with freedom for app developers to create what they like.

Windows 8 is a very nice OS - only major problem is the look and feel of new Metro crap and its attempt to force us to the Windows Store.


RE: ugh
By Silver2k7 on 8/29/2013 6:56:55 AM , Rating: 2
For photoediting software the only viable option to Windows where *most* probably not all my software would work is Mac OS.

But Windows 7 is working fine, until Win9 or something better comes along.


RE: ugh
By Moishe on 8/30/2013 2:18:10 PM , Rating: 2
Windows 7 will be fully supported for a long time. MS has never failed in that sense, so your comment there is plain wrong.

The trick is to sit out the current windows and wait for the company to learn their errors and make one that you want. I did that with Vista and it worked great. XP was by no mean harder to use or worse than Vista. Win 7 was a great upgrade. I'll gladly wait another few years until Windows 2015+ comes out and MS has figured out how to get it right.

If you want to give up on MS, x86, and the ecosystem, that's obviously your prerogative, but it's also your pain.

I can't believe you're comparing some cheap google tablet to Windows. The differences in performance, capability, and ecosystem are quite large.


RE: ugh
By Argon18 on 8/28/2013 10:52:54 AM , Rating: 1
When the "cheap" Android tablet is better than anything from Redmond, why should folks stop buying them? The fact is, iOS and Android have won the tablet war. Microsoft, with their clunky me-too copycat product is the loser here.


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