Developers got a peek at Microsoft's version 8.1 of its Windows operating system on Wednesday. The technology giant unveiled the first update of its newest OS, eight months after the initial release, at the Build 2013 developer conference now taking place in San Francisco.
The enthusiasm of developers is critical in making this generation of Windows a success, in order to boost the platform's current number of about 100,000 applications. Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer promised the attendees that Windows 8 will now have a "rapid-release schedule" of updates, and that there will soon be more Windows 8 touch-enabled devices to provide a larger installed base.
Ballmer said 8.1, with about 800 updates, will "refine the blend" between the desktop interface and the tile-based, touch-optimized Start screen interface. He said that the company wanted to "make it easier to start applications the way we're used to."
The Return of Start
For many users, the biggest news is the return of the Start button in the lower-left corner of the screen. A left click on that button, however, brings up the Start screen, not the pop-menu that users had in previous Windows, which offered a quick way to navigate. But a right click brings up Control Panel, Task Manager, search and several other system-level tools, as well as a quick way to shut down or restart.
Another change in 8.1 is the ability to boot into the desktop interface, which saves a few steps for those who frequently use the keyboard and mouse.
Xbox Music in 8.1 has been redesigned for easier use, with a left navigation pane to start a radio station, explore artists, or manage playlists, and a right pane for exploring content or watching videos. Searching for a particular musician will also result in the creation of a radio station of similar music, as in Pandora.
Searching now shows results from files, apps, SkyDrive, the Web and other sources, displayed horizontally. More apps can now be running at the same time on one screen by resizing the windows and using the Snap function, with up to eight apps on two screens -- four for each screen -- if the resolution is available.
New Personalization features include more color options for backgrounds, and the ability to show on the lock screen a slideshow of photos saved on the internal hard drive or in a user's account on SkyDrive. Photo-editing tools have been added for color selection, brightness, contrast and red-eye removal.
Microsoft has said that more than 100 million licenses have been sold for Windows 8 to date, but personal computer sales continued to fall -- by 14 percent in the first quarter, according to industry research firm IDC -- and some industry observers have blamed the drop at least partially on the lukewarm reception for Windows 8.
The OS is oriented around the touch-optimized tile interface, while PC users who are more interested in productivity apps still favor the keyboard and mouse. On a tablet -- a device that is completely oriented toward touch -- the OS has also has had a less-than-great reception so far, with only 4 percent of tablets using Windows 8 in the first quarter.
Posted: 2013-06-27 @ 3:03am PT
I can't say it any better than the Observer just did. If I could afford a Mac I'd have one but alas I am stuck with this winblows 8 garbage. I thought I purchased a computer only to come home and find an over-sized phone that made little to no sense. It's been a very frustrating experience for me from day one. If there was at least a built in option to run windows 7 on it I'd be fine. There may in fact be a way to run windows 7 on my computer but I am not computer savvy which is why I wish I could still afford Apple products. (and yeah i know they're not what they used to be either but they can't be as backwards as windows 8. there's just no way)
Posted: 2013-06-26 @ 9:02pm PT
Quote: "A left click on that button, however, brings up the Start screen, not the pop-menu that users had in previous Windows, which offered a quick way to navigate. But a right click brings up Control Panel, Task Manager, search and several other system-level tools, as well as a quick way to shut down or restart."
Right, this is a partial improvement to the absolutely dismal Windows 8 blunder. But why in the world don't they just make the damn start button do what it did in Windows 7 (which is almost identical to the Mac OS X functionality)?
The REAL problem with Windows 8 isn't just the start button. It's that the tile system itself is lousy for desktop use, and not intuitive as an Operating System should be. By default, the tiles link to completely irrelevant stuff, like someone else's Hungarian vacation pictures, or to Microsoft's weather service, which doesn't really work, unless you're already signed up to Microsoft's network with all your personal information.
If those silly tiles are customizable to be anything actually useful, it's definitely not intuitive. And, in any event, why should someone have to jump through any hoops when it comes to the default screen on their desktop?
Looks like Microsoft is so scared of becoming irrelevant that it moved so far out of the box that it left its core users alienated and frustrated. And 8.1 is not fix. It's a bandaid at best.
Goes to show that even a multi-billion-dollar company with its huge customer base and its consumer testing panels can't get it right. I say trash this Windows 8 monstrosity and go back to square one.