The second stage of the reinvention of Windows has officially begun. On Thursday, Microsoft released the long-awaited version 8.1 of its flagship operating system.
This version -- free to Windows 8 owners and available from the Windows Store -- is bearing more weight that most OS incremental updates, as it seeks to address some of the issues surrounding the release of Windows 8. A key issue has been the tile-based touch interface, which is arguably optimized more for tablets than for laptops or desktops, and the resulting lesser status of the legacy desktop interface.
Worldwide shipments for PCs are at a five-year low this month, following six straight quarters of decline. Tablets and smartphones are increasingly being used for the functions that were once the sole domain of computers, plus many consumers and businesses are going slow about upgrading PCs to new ones running Windows 8.
To counter some of the complaints, version 8.1 brings back a sort-of Start button and allows a user to boot into the traditional desktop interface. Other revisions include keyboard swiping shortcuts so that users do not need to move between on-screen keyboards for letters and numbers, navigational gesture control without touching the screen -- which might be useful if your hands are sticky while you're flipping through on-screen pages of a recipe while cooking -- multiple sizes for tiles in the touchscreen interface, and more support for multitasking.
While the much-requested Start button has returned, it's not the same as its former self in Windows 7 and earlier OS versions. Previously, the Start button brought up a Start menu with programs and folders. In 8.1, the Start button brings the user to the tile interface to open programs. Holding down the Start button brings up settings adjusters, such as Control Panel.
There are also an updated Mail app, unlimited tabs in Internet Explorer on the tile interface, an enhanced picture editor and Xbox music player, and an updated global search. Xbox One integration allows game players to begin watching a streaming video through Xbox Video on a Windows 8 tablet, and then resume it on Microsoft's entertainment console.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, told us that 8.1 is "a marked improvement over 8.0 in that parts of the earlier version were simply broken," and he pointed in particular to fixes in such functions as search and settings. He noted that 8.1 still maintains its two separate interfaces with their two types of applications, which might appeal to users of both modes or irritate fans of the desktop.
He added that some users, fans of the desktop interface, have probably "wished that Microsoft simply made improvements to Windows 7." But touch fans are encouraged, Greengart said, by the fact that there are more Windows touch-oriented applications than there used to be, "although nowhere near as many as iPad's."
Posted: 2013-10-24 @ 11:38am PT
I'm very disappointed by the start button, this was the main reason I wanted the update. Microsoft still seem to forcing the useless tiles on us.
Posted: 2013-10-22 @ 7:02am PT
Come on, Microsoft tried to fix the one major flaw in the new OS with a fix that totally did not adress the problem. Perhaps a minority got satisfied, but most people still use Win 7 and for a good reason.
I am a desktop user, and I DON'T want Metro. At all. And I want my OS supported Start menu back (not an app PLEASE). I don't want some stupid blocky Metro menu interface which is just obscuring everything.
And please listen now MS, I don't want to use my finger on my super expensive 27" high def screen. Can you understand why? Hello Microsoft, anyone left with a pair of ears and a brain yet in Redmond?
*Please* start listening to the user base, or we will go to Linux, Google or Apple OS soon. I'll wait for Windows 8.2 and if it is still the same junk as Windows 8.1, I will head for Google OS.
Posted: 2013-10-17 @ 12:13pm PT
no thanks !