Software // Operating Systems
News
10/17/2013
08:53 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts

Microsoft hopes to improve on Windows 8's lackluster first year with Windows 8.1. But is Microsoft's new OS right for you?

 Microsoft Surface: 10 Best And Worst Changes
Microsoft Surface: 10 Best And Worst Changes
(click image for larger view)
Since debuting last fall, Windows 8 has attracted criticism arguably faster than it's accrued market share. Microsoft, now a year older and wiser, hopes to right its course with Windows 8.1, which began rolling out to current Win 8 users as an optional download at 7 a.m. Eastern time Thursday.

The protests against Windows 8 are legion. Some say it alienated desktop users with its Live Tile Start screen and redesigned UI. Others contend it bored desktop users with uninspired core apps and a weak library of third-party titles. It was also criticized for forcing a tablet OS and a desktop OS into one package, and for failing to revitalize the flagging PC market. And that's not to mention the implications of Microsoft's Surface tablets, an inextricable extension of the Win 8 strategy that has not only cost the company millions but also soured relationships with some of its partners.

Retiring Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in June that Windows 8.1 would offer a "refined blend" of the original Win 8 vision, but given the original version's struggles, many commentators have questioned whether iterative enhancements will be enough. Should you upgrade to Microsoft's newest OS? Here are 10 things you need to know.

[ Will Windows 8.1 make the difference for laggards? See Windows XP Holdouts Hold On. ]

1. Windows 8.1 won't become available to all customers at the same time.

Microsoft began a staged rollout to current Win 8 users Thursday morning, which means Windows 8.1 is already available to many via the Windows Store. For some current Win 8 users, though, the update might not appear until later in the day. The update is optional, but Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 8 with security patches in two years, which should push stragglers along.

For those using an older version of Windows, the retail version of Windows 8 will become available Friday. The core version is $119.99 and Windows 8.1 Pro is $199.99.

2. Windows 8.1 should offer a better desktop experience.

With a boot-to-desktop mode, the ability to disable hot corners, a reintegrated Start button and other features that allow users to banish Live Tiles from their workflow, Windows 8.1 might offer enough to appease disenchanted desktop users. After changing a few settings, the OS can be treated largely like an updated version of Windows 7. There is one significant exception, however. Read on.

3. The Start button doesn't have a Start menu.

Unlike Windows 7's Start button, the Windows 8.1 version doesn't summon a Start menu; instead, it takes users to an "All Apps" view.

This issue has made many Win 8 critics skeptical of the upgrade's prospects. Nonetheless, the new Start button still preserves many Start menu-like functions. If users right-click the Start button, or hold down on it when using a touchscreen, a list of additional options will appear. They include access to programs, settings, files and the Task Manager, as well as the ability to power down or restart the device.

4. Windows 8.1 is an update to both Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Microsoft has downplayed the RT branding lately; the company dropped the RT designation with the Surface 2, and Microsoft Surface product manager Jack Cowett admitted in a recent interview with ARN that the company's original marketing confused consumers.

Nonetheless, Microsoft remains committed to Windows RT in spirit, if not in name; Windows 8.1 updates both Win 8 and Win RT. The upcoming Surface 2 will run the 8.1 version of RT, which adds support for Microsoft Exchange, as well as many of the other Modern UI tweaks that will debut in the full version of Windows 8.1.

What remains to be seen: Will any manufacturer other than Microsoft make an RT device?

5. Windows 8.1 should offer a more cohesive user experience.

Moving between the desktop and the Modern UI could be smoother in Windows 8.1 thanks to a variety of new features. Users can set the same background for both interfaces, for example, which should make it less jarring to jump back and forth. Microsoft has also integrated a tutorial app to help users learn how the OS works, which should help speed up whatever remains of the original Win 8's infamous learning curve.

Windows 8.1 should also be more cohesive for users who prefer to stick with one UI or the other. Those who opt for Live Tiles can now access more settings and controls in the Modern UI's settings menu, eliminating the need to pop over to the desktop. Those who prefer the desktop, meanwhile, can essentially lock off the Modern UI, as mentioned above.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 4   >   >>
RobertA473
50%
50%
RobertA473,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/17/2013 | 1:33:53 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
8.1 doesn't have a start menu ... the chief complaint with 8.0 and it still doesn't have a start menu - how very ordinary ... ps i hate the 'charms' - i repeat; i HATE the charms
MarciaNWC
50%
50%
MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2013 | 3:04:20 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
Not sure how much use a Start button has without the Start menu. And how a user gets functionality from it doesn't seem very intuitive.
midmachine
50%
50%
midmachine,
User Rank: Strategist
10/17/2013 | 4:20:17 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
If you use the OS with an open mind you will find that you don;t miss the start "menu". Just ype in the application name and off you go.
Tronman
50%
50%
Tronman,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/17/2013 | 4:55:09 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
Windows 8 is the new Vista was the new ME.
Mark532010
50%
50%
Mark532010,
User Rank: Strategist
10/17/2013 | 5:29:44 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
It will be interesting to see how the new bing search is implemented. I removed the old google desktop search because of privacy concerns. I suspect Bing Search has the same issues - hopefully there is a way to turn it off
esilders44101
50%
50%
esilders44101,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/17/2013 | 5:33:51 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
You have as much multi-tasking as you ever had before when in the desktop and who needs the Start menu when you can get to all apps with a single click or keystroke. Arrange the apps as you see fit and you're off and running. I'd never go back to Start / Programs / sub-menu etc. I've on Windows 8 and now 8.1 nearly a year and wouldn't go back.
moonwatcher
50%
50%
moonwatcher,
User Rank: Strategist
10/17/2013 | 8:00:27 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
As long as the updated Start8 by Stardock works, MY Start button WILL have a Start Menu...To heck with Microsoft and their halfway updates...
wht
50%
50%
wht,
User Rank: Strategist
10/17/2013 | 8:33:19 PM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
Only stubborn users who refuse to learn something new need a crutch like Start8. In 30 minutes or less you should have become familiar enough with Windows 8 to be comfortable and off and running just as in the past.
samiseo
50%
50%
samiseo,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2013 | 6:51:05 AM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
Upgrade to Windows 8.1 form Windows 8: (step by step)

http://www.alerts4it.blogspot....
samiseo
50%
50%
samiseo,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/18/2013 | 6:51:27 AM
re: Windows 8.1: 10 Essential Upgrade Facts
Upgrade to Windows 8.1 form Windows 8: (step-by-step)

http://www.alerts4it.blogspot....
Page 1 / 4   >   >>
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and community news at InformationWeek.com.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.