Windows 8.1 will make or break Microsoft, or at least the desktop
As many have stated, Microsoft has had a pretty reliable hit/miss/hit/miss record with their operating systems. Windows 7 was, and still is, a big hit for many. Windows 8 has proven less so, especially for traditional desktop users. Microsoft’s gamble to integrate desktop and mobile platforms into one unified product hasn’t hit yet. Microsoft’s much anticipated update to Windows 8 has kept many users watching to see if their complaints have been heard.
Windows 8.1 will be rolling out in this month and will be a free update for current Windows 8 users, which is a good move for both PR and to help those who have been holding on to 7 make the switch. It remains to be seen if 8.1 will fix Microsoft’s relationship to it’s users who were taken aback by it’s abrupt interface changes.
Windows 8.1 does address some serious issues that users had with 8 and adds some improvements as well. One improvement is Internet Explorer 11, which will allow users to synchronize tabs across devices and also boast some performance improvements. There will also be improvements to Skydrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, which will allow automatic saving and offline editing of files. Windows 8.1 will offer some new built-in utilities including apps for recipies, health and fitness, and a reading list. These apps are still primarily targeted to tablet and ultrabook users, but do help sweeten the pot.
The biggest issue with Windows 8 for most users was the loss of the familiar Start button that had helped users navigate and launch their programs since Windows 95. The minimalist Metro interface was confusing for many, and in my opinion still is only useful on Windows phones. Users applauded when Microsoft revealed that the Start button was coming back, but it won’t offer the same functionality as it did previously. Tech Crunch reports,
One question that was probably on many people’s mind, though, was what the Start button would actually do. This may come as a bit of a disappointment to many, but a click on the Start button will take you to the regular Start screen. There’s no Windows 7-like pop-up menu that appears. If you have personalized the Start screen to the app list view, however (another new feature in Windows 8.1), you will see that instead of the usual live tile view. This view will give you one-click access to all of your apps.
So Microsoft is still married to the Metro interface. This in spite of the fact that most users with Windows 8 don’t even use Metro apps. As one commenter I read put it, this is kind of like someone buying a new car only to find that the horn had been removed. After complaining about wanting the horn back, the manufacturer replaced it but it cursed out the owner instead of honking.
So it remains to be seen if 8.1 will change things enough to make holdouts make the switch and also to keep users from flying to Android or iOS devices.