The first update for Windows 8.1 may be one of the more scrutinized updates in history, as Microsoft
-watchers try to assess where the transitioning company is heading with its operating system. New reports suggest a variety of additional possibilities and a launch date that may now be in April.
The first wave of details last week were based on a leaked early build for Update 1, as well as screen shots and unnamed sources. Now a second leaked build is floating around.
Reports indicate that apps using the "Modern" or tile user interface will have the Jump List feature that was first introduced in Windows 7. By right-clicking on a Modern app pinned to the taskbar, a user can access recent documents, images, songs or Web sites relating to that app.
Audio- and video-player apps that play in the background, like YouTube's, are expected to show miniature media controls if a user hovers over the app in the taskbar. The taskbar itself is available from anywhere in the OS, even in a Modern app, by bringing one's cursor to screen bottom or using the Windows key plus the letter "T."
Other anticipated changes include the requirement of a password through User Account Control whenever a new program will be installed, whether or not the account is standard or administrator.
Last week, there were rumors that search and power buttons will be added to the upper right corner of the Start screen, and that there will now be the ability to pin and preview in the taskbar an app that uses the "Modern" or tile-based UI.
There have also been reports that users will boot into the desktop user interface by default if they have a non-touchscreen computer, and they can navigate to the Modern tiles UI from there. Touch systems would boot directly to the Start screen, and users could change the settings for which desktop is default boot.
Knowing If Touch or Not
This is a significant change, if it occurs, since it acknowledges and attempts to fix the complaints of keyboard and mouse users, who are still the bulk of Windows users. Such a change would also indicate that the system will be able to distinguish between hardware containing touchscreen displays and those with only keyboard, mouse and traditional screens.
Mary Jo Foley at CNET, citing two unnamed sources, has also reported that the original release date for the update, March 11, is likely to become April 8.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, noted that the company "has never confirmed that the update would be in March."
But she added, "If you're Microsoft, in a state of transition, you want to get this right," so a delay to April would not be surprising.
She told us that whatever the final list of fixes and changes, the Windows 8.1 update is intended to "soothe all the ruffled feathers" of keyboard-mouse users and "make the live tiles more palatable."